Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi says he will appoint a commission of enquiry, across the entire private education system in the province, to investigate racial issues affecting learners in private schools.
He said the Gauteng Schools Education Act enables him to set up a probe of this nature, and that the commission will be a sector-wide one to allow parents to give evidence of their concerns.
The MEC said he will expect a report from the probe by June 2016, and that he will announce the report then.
MEC Lesufi said this on Monday after a meeting with Curro School management, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), parents’ representatives and other education stakeholders in Sinoville, Pretoria.
The meeting was held following media reports that Curro School places learners in classes according to their race.
“The school has accepted that it made a mistake and it is rectifying that mistake. I felt that the school management must, in their own time, apologise to South Africans and they have accepted that,” he said.
He said he will not allow a Grade R learner or any other child to be reminded about apartheid and where South Africa comes from as a country in terms of racial segregation.
MEC Lesufi said he and the school management have reached common ground and apologies have been extended to the learners, parents and the country about the practice.
“On behalf of the entire education sector, I truly and honestly apologise. It is not only an apology but I will act decisively,” he said.
Curro School only teaches the English and Afrikaans languages, and it only has white educators.
The MEC said this sends the wrong message to learners. MEC Lesufi said he was glad to learn that the school has already partnered with higher education institutions to recruit black educators in the near future.
He also proposed that the school introduce the teaching of African languages and the school management has accepted the proposal.
“I will closely monitor that this happens. The teacher population must also represent the learner population,” he said.
The MEC said integration of learners at the school will happen immediately.
“No learner will be separated from others on the basis of the colour of their skin. I will monitor that integration closely,” he said.
The regional head of the school, Andries Greyling, said the school never stood for any racial segregation.
“I think this is not a segregation issue but rather an integration issue where parents expected us to allocate various learners over the classes… We will change our practices and we will get parents involved in that process,” he said.
Moving forward, he said the school management will work hard to solve their problems.
Senior Legal Officer at the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), Nicola Whittaker, said the commission welcomes the commitment that was made by Curro School management to eradicate any racial profiling practices.
“SAHRC will monitor the commitment and ensure that any process of placing learners in classes happens in a constitutionally sound manner, in that no child is separated from another child based on his or her race,” said Whittaker.
She said the commission learnt through media that there were complaints relating to human rights at the school. Participating in the meeting this morning, Whittaker said, will help the SAHRC to monitor the situation.
Nomfundo Zimu, whose daughter is in a grade 2 English class at the school, was in the meeting chaired by the MEC this morning. She said she appreciates the inputs made by MEC Lesufi.
“He kind of pushed the school into embracing change… I am not sure how I feel at the moment – it’s still fresh. I guess time will tell,” she said.
Zimu could not say whether or not she will keep her child in the school for long, and that she has no choice to keep her there for the rest of 2015 since the school term has begun.
“I will take some time to see if there are any changes in the school in the next few months. That will help me decide if my child will still be attending Curro or not,” she said.
Zimu said her daughter started school at Curro two years ago and everything was alright. She was shocked at the sudden practice of placing learners in classes according to their race.
“We were not informed that any changes would be made. [My daughter’s] first and second year [grade R and 1] in the school were 100% fine. So this year things just changed,” she said.
Zimu said she learned on the first Monday at a meeting after schools reopened that there were changes in the school relating to race.
“There is always a list of learners’ names outside the classrooms. That’s where I noticed that my child was suddenly in a blacks only class,” Zimu said
Regulating private schools
MEC Lesufi said he will convene a meeting with all private school principals in the next two weeks with the purpose of establishing a transformation charter, which can be adopted by the sector.
The MEC also said that he wants private schools in the province to be regulated, although he made it clear that regulations will exclude monetary issues.
Source : SAnews.gov.za