Rustenburg Girls' School: Concerned parents slam dept's transformation comments

2018-11-06 21:02

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Concerned parents at Rustenburg Girls' Junior School have slammed the Western Cape education department's response to the public outcry following the resignation of a black teacher at the school.

Over the weekend, education MEC Debbie Schäfer said the department was not aware of allegations of racism in the treatment of the teacher, Nozipho Mthembu, as she had been employed by the school governing body (SGB).

The department released the statement following a report by the Mail & Guardian on Friday which stated that Mthembu, a former pupil at the school, had resigned after her performance was questioned.

READ: Top Cape Town girls' school caught in transformation row

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) was involved, the report said. Mthembu said she had not experienced racism, but had felt undermined and unsupported.

Schäfer pointed out that there may have been confusion regarding the resignation process, as members of the SGB were not experts in HR.

On Tuesday, a member of the group Parents for Change said that Schäfer's comments were misinformed.

Rustenburg Girls' Junior School 'dysfunctional'

"The WCED (Western Cape Education Department) is quick to act against schools who do not perform and they are labelled as dysfunctional," Professor Nuraan Davids said during a press briefing in Cape Town on Tuesday.

"In my opinion, RBG (Rustenburg Girls' Junior School) is dysfunctional. You are not preparing my kids for a diverse society. You are not creating a socially just environment – that is a dysfunctional environment."

Davids said it was the department's duty to resolve the apparent lack of transformation at the school.

READ: Furore over Cape Town teacher's resignation continues

"We would also like the WCED to take responsibility for what is a public government school. Our meetings with WCED have been astonishing, to say the least," she said.

"They've adopted the approach of 'this is a governance problem and so you sort it out'. I'm sorry, I pay tax to the government and I pay high school fees so my children can go there. Now you're telling me this is not your problem?"

Another member and concerned parent Tania Katzchner said that the group was desperate to assist the school.

Call for SGB chairperson to resign

"We are a group of parents who believe change is possible. We really want to help the school," she said.

"The previous SGB members who worked on transformation resigned last year in a moment of extreme frustration. Some have left the school, but we really want to work with the school."

Davids agreed: "We are asking, can we please engage with you and assist you, because clearly you need help with understanding notions of transparency, of clear communication and dignity."

The group has also called for the resignation of the SGB's chairperson.

The Western Cape Education Department on Tuesday confirmed that it had met with the group when concerns were first raised in November last year, and an undertaking was made to set up a series of engagements with the various role players.

Rustenburg alumni in open letter: 'We were forced to become more white'

A group of former Rustenburg Girls' school pupils have written an scathing open letter to the governing body over the treatment of Nozipho Mthembu - the school's first black full-time teacher who resigned after feeling undermined and unsupported.

"At no stage [were] issues of racism raised. The concerns related to this group's perception that the school was making slow progress with transformation and embracing diversity," department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said.

"In 2018, as agreed upon, a series of meetings were arranged between the WCED and various role players. These included meetings between the WCED and the school management team (SMT), the WCED and the SGB, and the WCED with the SMT, SGB and the concerned parents' group."

'Unfortunate' misrepresentation of facts

Hammond said that during a meeting with all parties present, the concerned parents outlined the steps they had taken to speed up transformation at the school.

"Similarly, the SGB had also indicated the various interventions that they had done in creating diversity awareness and their assurance of their commitment to transformation," she added.

Hammond said it was "unfortunate" that the group was misrepresenting some of the facts around the matter.

In September, all parties agreed to cooperate and the Parents for Change group would form part of the SGBs diversity subcommittees.

Hammond said that the department had only become aware of the resignations when first approached by the parents' group.

"While this matter is receiving public attention, the WCED remains committed to an ongoing process of reconciling the differences between all parties and ensuring that participative processes by all interested groups take place," she said.

"We will, again, offer to meet shortly, and recommend external specialist mediation."

Read more on:    cape town  |  racism  |  education

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