Suspended Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke teacher at centre of racism row consults lawyers

2019-01-14 15:59
Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke school children. (Twitter)

Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke school children. (Twitter)

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A teacher caught up in the race controversy at a primary school in the North West, and who was suspended by the provincial education department, is currently in Johannesburg consulting with her legal team. 

Ellen Barkhuizen was suspended last Thursday after a photo of black children sitting at a separate table behind a door away from white pupils in a Grade R class at Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke went viral. 

Over the weekend EWN reported that trade union Solidarity was planning on taking the provincial education department to court as the wrong teacher had been suspended. 

Barkhuizen allegedly took the image and circulated it on a WhatsApp group for parents. The teacher who allegedly separated the children is still at the school. 

The department and the South African Human Rights Commission are currently at the school conducting investigations into the incident. 

The Young Communist League (YCL) in the Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati district said the league would be forced to act against the school should the department of education fail to intervene.

READ: Teacher at centre of Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke storm leaves town

"We are calling for the dismissal of the district manager. As the YCL we have lost confidence in the department of education in the North West. We are calling on the minister of education to intervene because the situation at the school is difficult to control," said district committee member Pule Ramabodu.

"We don't have confidence that the department will resolve the matter. We are going to campaign against the school if no action is taken. We are going to campaign to close the school or render it ungovernable."

Ramabodu added that the league would lobby civic organisations in the area to help it with its campaign.

Armed guards' presence against policy

On Monday a group of armed security guards were seen on the school's premises.

"Parents feel threatened and have employed guards at the school. Some children have arrived at the school and others are at home," school governing body chairperson Jozeph du Plessis said. 

Ramabodu said the education department's policy clearly states that no weapons are allowed inside schools.

"We are not happy with the security guards. Their presence will intimidate parents, members of the community and learners. The employment of armed guards is another racial tactic by the school governing body to instill fear in the mind of a black child.

"White people use racism to deny a black child access to education. They are denying black children [the right] to focus on their education."

He said the alleged racism at the school robbed black children of their humanity.

READ: Emergency measures in place at Schweizer-Reneke school

Parent Teboho Ngakanyane told News24 that he took his son, who is in Grade R, home after seeing armed guards inside the school.

"This situation is provoking us and will cause us to fight among ourselves. The situation shows that racism is still rife in this school. This is a public school but white people have turned it into their private school.

"The way they behave, it shows that our children are provoked. All along there was no security guards in the school, why now?" he asked.

Ngakanyane said his son hadn't complained about racism at the school.

"My son doesn't understand what racism is because he still very young. I am aware that many black children are not in school. We call on the department to quickly act against the deployment of armed guards before it goes out of hand.

"Those guards are intimidating us, and this clearly means blacks are not allowed in the school," said Ngakanyane. 

Subdistrict manager Gopolang Valtyn said the provincial education department was engaging with the school about the armed guards.

"No person is allowed to enter any school premises armed with any form of a weapon. We strongly condemn the decision by the governing body to employ armed guards," he said. 

READ3 lessons from that Schweizer-Reneke photo

Read more on:    mahikeng  |  racism  |  education

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