Sadtu demands answers following suspension of Schweizer-Reneke teacher at centre of racism row

2019-01-17 13:02
Elana Barkhuizen speaks following her suspension from Schweizer-Reneke primary school in the North West. (Alex Mitchley, News24)

Elana Barkhuizen speaks following her suspension from Schweizer-Reneke primary school in the North West. (Alex Mitchley, News24)

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The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) in the North West is demanding answers from the provincial department on why a teacher, who allegedly captured and shared a controversial image taken at Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke in the province, was suspended.

Provincial chairperson Mxolisi Bomvana said Sadtu was alerted on Friday about Elana Barkhuizen's suspension from the school.

Action was taken against the teacher after an image surfaced on social media, showing a group of black children sitting at a separate table from their white classmates.

"What we have since discovered is that the teacher who allegedly separated the children according to their race is still working in the school. We want answers why the teacher is still in school," he said.

The union said it supported the swift reaction from North West Education MEC Sello Lehari, who is investigating what happened on Wednesday last week.

"We are calling for the investigations by the department to go deeper and the MEC must tell us why he suspended Barkhuizen.

"The department must form a transformation task team to deal with racism and transformation in former model C schools. The task team must zoom more on diversity."

READ: OVERVIEW: A photo of happy children 'was used against me' - suspended Schweizer-Reneke teacher

Barkhuizen, with the support of trade union Solidarity, has threatened to take legal action following her suspension, which she termed unlawful.

Bomvana said some parents have told the union that they wanted the children's class teacher to be suspended as well.

On Wednesday, a source in the provincial department of education told News24 that the school principal and the teacher who allegedly separated the children according to race would be suspended soon.

READ: Laerskool Schweizer Reneke row: Principal, teacher facing suspension amid probe - source

Bomvana added that the school governing body told him more than 90% of pupils were at school on Thursday.

The union slammed disruptions at the school following the surfacing of the picture on social media. However, it added that it was also against the employment of armed guards by the school to protect the premises.

The guards were later ordered not to carry weapons inside the school by district manager Gopolang Valtyn.

Bomvana added that Sadtu was shocked when white men arrived at the school armed with guns after protests broke out over the picture.

"It will be good for government to provide security in all schools to prevent violent behaviour in our schools and prevent armed people from entering them."

Bomvana called on the department to investigate all racial discrimination in other schools in the province.

"There are no black teachers in the school and we are calling for the department to act on that. If we want transformation in the school, we can't have a majority of whites. Again, language must not be used as a barrier and parents who can't afford to pay registration fees should be exempted.

"In order for black children [to] be in a conducive environment, there should be black teachers and a black principal in the school. We are also calling for white people to teach in black schools in the township," he said.

The MEC was expecting to hold a media briefing on Thursday afternoon, but that has since been postponed while the department seeks legal advice.

Read more on:    sadtu  |  mahikeng  |  racism  |  education
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