Matatiele school's 'huge problem' with segregation
One class has 13 pupils, all of them white. Another class in the same grade has 27 pupils, all black.
This is according to grade 1 photos in last year's school yearbook at King Edward High School in the Eastern Cape town of Matatiele.
Tomorrow the province's education department is set to launch an urgent investigation of the school, which keeps one class in grades 1 to 3 exclusively black.
Pupils in the A classes are Afrikaans-speaking. Last year there were 13 pupils in this combined grade R and grade 1 class, all of them white. There were seven pupils in the combined grade 2 and grade 3 class, six of whom were white and one coloured, according to class photos.
Pupils in the E classes are English-speaking children who have been at the school since pre-grade RR. These classes are racially mixed, each with about 27 children.
It’s like the black kids needed to appreciate the opportunity of being there. They are not made to feel as if it is their school.Parent of a child at the school who did not want to be named
The EE classes comprise English-speaking children who did not attend the school's pre-grade RR class, and who came from other pre-primary schools.
There are about 27 children in these classes and all are black.
A source at the school said the black pupils in the EE classes were not integrated with pupils from the other two classes in grades 1 to 3 because the institution did not want to "split up children who had established friendship patterns" from the age of three.
A parent at the school described the practice of having exclusively black classes as racism.
"Obviously, the white pupils in the Afrikaans classes are getting more individual attention as their classes are smaller," said the parent, who wished not to be identified for fear that his children at the school would be victimised.
"This practice of keeping one class in each grade exclusively black is not right. These pupils must be mixed with pupils from the other classes."
Another parent said having a completely black class in each grade was "obviously uncomfortable" and "a huge problem".
"It's like the black kids need to appreciate the opportunity of being there. They are not made to feel as if it is their school."
The chair of the school's governing body, advocate Andrew Duminy, said parents had spent more than R5m on building extra classrooms to accommodate an additional class of grade 1 pupils who came from other pre-primary schools.
"Many of these children battle with English and are often a year behind in language and social development and receive special assistance. This class starts in pre-grade R and fills up in grade 1."
The three classes of pupils moved up through the grades until grade 4, "although there is some movement of learners between these classes at parents' request", he said.
"The Afrikaans-medium class is open to all races."
Duminy said his son, who was headboy at the school last year, was dating last year's black headgirl.
"I am an Afrikaner farmer and my son is dating a black girl from Pondoland and I am excited about it."
The Sunday Times learnt that the school's principal, Gordon Harrison, agreed to move a grade 3 pupil from the completely black class to the mixed class on Thursday after the pupil's parents queried the criteria used by the school to place pupils in the different classes.
KING EDWARD SCHOOL IN NUMBERS
13 - The number of pupils in the all-white Grade 1 class of 2018
27 - The number of pupils in the all-black Grade 1 class of 2018
R5m - The amount parents spent on building extra classrooms to accommodate an additional class of Grade 1 pupils who came from other pre-primary schools
Mary Metcalfe, an associate professor of education at the University of Johannesburg, said children should be encouraged to expand friendship circles and explore new friendships all the time.
"This is particularly important when children come from divided communities," she said.
Metcalfe, a former education MEC in Gauteng, said teachers should ensure opportunities for pupils of different language groups to learn and play together.
Eastern Cape education spokesperson Mali Mtima said the government's aim was to promote social cohesion among pupils.
"We condemn any form of racism and view it in a very serious light. Officials from the department will start an investigation on Monday and will be reporting back to the provincial office."