North West school integrates black and white kids - but mom's not buying it
A parent of one of the four black pupils who were photographed sitting separately from their 18 white classmates on their first day at the Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke in the North West has 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 the children decided to sit that way, which is not true," said the disgruntled parent.
She is not being named to protect the identity of her child.
"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," she added.
She didn't immediately notice who had been placed next to her child as class had not yet begun.
"So everything they are saying is not true. 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," said the mother.
The situation that unfolded in the Grade R classroom was brought to light after the class teacher took a picture and sent it to the parents via a WhatsApp group around 9am on Wednesday.
The picture showed the four black children seated at the same desk on one end of the room. The 18 white children were placed at a single long table in the middle of the room.
The picture was circulated on social media, with many people questioning why the children were separated.
The mother of the child claimed that another parent had called the school principal, asking about why the children were separated.
The principal had said she would look into the matter.
Several hours later, the parents received a different picture, showing two of the four black children now sitting at the long table with the other white children. Two white children had been moved to the table with the black children.
"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, thinking the second teacher her child was referring to was actually the principal.
"But my child didn't see anything wrong with what had happened. He didn't say anything about making new friends," added the mother.
Asked what the next move would be, 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.
"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.
She was disappointed, however, that the school had not apologised.
The Sowetan quoted the mother of one of the black pupils as saying that she did not think twice about enrolling her child at the school because her elder son went to the same school. She had not experienced any racism until Wednesday, she told the newspaper.
The provincial education department was expected to visit the school on Thursday.
Spokesperson Freddy Sepeng told TimesLIVE that they had learnt of the situation through social media. "We have seen the picture and we are investigating the allegations. The MEC will be paying them a visit," said Sepeng.
"If it is true, we strongly condemn it."