North West school sends children home as 'segregation' uproar rages
Parents of pupils at Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke in the North West were on Thursday ordered to fetch their children from school.
A parent who spoke to TimesLIVE said they had received messages from the school stating that they are sending all the children home.
"They said this is because there are people from political parties protesting outside the school," said the parent, who was rushing there.
Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke was thrust into the spotlight on Wednesday as schools re-opened. This was after a picture surfaced of Grade R pupils seemingly segregated by race.
The picture showed four black children seated at a desk placed at one end of the classroom. All 18 white children had been placed at a separate, longer table in the middle of the room.
The photo, which was taken by the class teacher and sent to parents via the school's WhatsApp group, soon went viral on social media, with many people questioning why the children were separated.
Earlier, TimesLIVE spoke to the parent of one the black pupils who were photographed.
She accused the school of making excuses for their actions. "Members of Sadtu [the SA Democratic Teachers Union] went to the school and they gave us a report-back. They say the school says they [the children] decided to sit that way, which is not true," said the disgruntled parent.
"When I got to the class before school in the morning, all the children's names were already written on the desks they were supposed to sit at. The labels had been put on their tables and their aprons," added the mother, who is not being named to protect the identity of her child.
She didn't immediately notice who would have been placed next to her child as class had not yet started.
"Everything they are saying is not true," said the mother. "We had expected the principal would give an excuse that they had put our children separately from the others because of language. Maybe they could have said that the children were more comfortable speaking to other children who spoke their own language and would later be integrated once they got comfortable - but they put it all on our children."
The woman claimed that another parent had called the school principal to ask about why the children were separated. The principal said she would look into the matter.
Several hours later, the parents received a different photograph, showing two of the four black pupils sitting at the long table with the white children, while two white pupils had been moved to the smaller table with the other black children.
What seems to have happened at Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke is an absolute disgrace. If you cannot accept children as children, get out of the classroom— Jonathan Jansen (@JJ_Stellies) January 10, 2019
"That picture was sent after the principal told us they would 'sort it out'. My child said after break, another teacher came and moved them around," said the parent.
"But my child didn't see anything wrong with what had happened. He didn't say anything about making new friends."
The enraged mother said she did not intend moving her child from the school. "I will keep my child there for the next seven years. We have to be the ones to change things and we can't keep running away from this," she said.
The provincial education department was expected to visit the school on Thursday.