17 November 2018

South Africa: Our School Is Not Racist or Discriminatory - Rustenburg Girls' Junior Head

The head of Rustenburg Girls' Junior School says that despite recent negative publicity, the school promotes diversity and is forward-thinking.

"It is a place where children of all races, colours, religions and cultures learn, play and socialise together. All employees - teaching, admin and other support staff - are incredibly passionate about our learners and are supported by equally passionate parents," headmistress Di Berry told News24.

Berry, who is at the cusp of retirement, said she was saddened by recent threats and hateful feedback directed at employees. She said false information had also been spread in the public domain about the school.

READ: Mamphela Ramphele: Stereotyping in schools undermines our performance

However, "the negative feedback has paled in comparison to the outpouring of support for the school, and more importantly, for transformation in the school, that I have received from the school community."

She added: "No teacher has ever been dismissed from this school because of their race. No child has been deprived of a bursary because they are black. That is not who we are as a school."

The school - situated in Cape Town's southern suburbs - made headlines earlier this month after racism allegations surfaced when a black teacher, who is a former pupil, resigned after she claimed she felt undermined.

44% of 2019 Grade 1s 'are of colour'

It is once again at the centre of controversy after emails were leaked to various media outlets, which show how the school apparently dissuaded a family from the US from sponsoring a 3-year-old girl from Khayelitsha to attend the school.

The Cape Times reported that the admissions officer told the local intermediary that the child may feel excluded and isolated.

Berry, however, said that the school had become greatly diverse over the last decade.

"When I arrived at the school 11 years ago in 2008, it was not very diverse. At the time, almost all our learners and my colleagues were white. Today, we have a diverse group of incredibly talented employees, and we serve learners of all races and cultural backgrounds."

She said that almost half of the staff compliment, including teachers, were people of colour.

"For 2019, 44% of the Grade Rs accepted are of colour. All school-funded bursaries are awarded to previously disadvantaged learners of colour. All permanent vacancies now prioritise employment equity candidates."

'Thought-provoking' few weeks

However, the school still has a long way to, Berry said.

"I, together with the entire leadership team, recognise this and we will continue to work with parents and all employees to make our school an institution we can continue to be proud of."

The outgoing principal said her successor would need to continue to accelerate the transformation process and deliver a high quality of education.

She said the last few weeks had been the most "thought-provoking period for our school".

"Important discussions have taken place in our corridors, in many of our learners' homes and in our wider community about the need to further diversify our school and drive inclusivity to best serve the futures of our children."

Berry said the school stakeholders would work together to offer pupils "a high-quality education, and to teach our children to be caring and compassionate citizens of South Africa".

"Our school, and indeed country, is at its best when everyone is engaged, and everyone works together for the greater good."

Source: News24

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