11 January 2019

South Africa: Schweizer-Reneke - Schooling Disrupted in a Divided Town

Photo: Supplied
Schoolchildren at Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke.

Racial tension remains high in the small farming town of Schweizer-Reneke in the North West.

Many black and white people remain divided after an image went viral on Wednesday, depicting black Grade R pupils seated apart from their white peers at Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke.

On Thursday, photos emerged, seemingly from the same set, and they showed the pupils sitting together.

However, before that, a group of protesters - mainly Economic Freedom Fighters members - converged on the school as North West Education MEC Sello Lehari conducted an inspection.

Teaching was disrupted and parents fetched their children after school officials advised them to do so.

Later in the morning, Lehari announced that the teacher of the Grade R class had been suspended.

The tension in the town continued to play out in common interactions on Friday morning.

Several parents approached journalists outside the school, demanding to know what they were doing in their town.

"Who called you here? What are you doing in our town?" asked Esmé Venter.

Another resident, John van Wyk, quickly jumped to the defence of the reporters, saying they were in town to do their jobs.

"They are South Africans and can work anywhere in the country. They were called by us black parents to show what kind of town we are living in," he said.

The situation later calmed down.

Solly Bouer, who arrived with Venter, said he was angered by what happened on Thursday, claiming that some protesters jumped over the school fence and entered the yard when Lehari's entourage arrived at the school.

"Children are supposed to be in school now. This place is dangerous, there are people who want to destroy our town. Who called the media here?" asked Bouer.

Van Wyk replied that the situation became more dangerous when scores of white men arrived at the school on Thursday, wearing bullet proof vests and carrying guns.

"They were there to protect the school. Blacks wanted to petrol bomb the school. They wanted to burn the school, learners and later burn our town," said Bouer.

He denied that there was racism at the school and in the town. He said Afrikaners were only protecting their Afrikaans language.

Nothing wrong with the image

Venter said she saw nothing wrong with the photograph.

"I looked at the picture and saw nothing wrong. Children were separated in class for them to know each other according to their race. It is [not] fair for their teacher to be suspended. It was not her fault at all. She told us she liked all her children in her class," said Venter.

"We want to clean this town. I have spent 73 years of my life in this town. I know how black people operate. We are here to protect our children. White people who arrived at the school carrying guns, came to protect the school.

"It was right for parents to carry guns to the school. They didn't hurt anyone," she said.

Another parent who refused to be identified claimed that her child had black friends in the school and she didn't see anything wrong with the photo.

"When is this going to end? Our children are afraid to come to school. We white people are afraid to bring our children to school. There is nothing wrong with that picture. There are more pictures showing black children sitting next to our children.

"Those children were rotated according to their race. I was angry when I saw the picture because it was unfair to their teacher," she said.

While most children did not arrive for school, there were a handful of pupils on the premises. However, it was unclear whether any teaching took place.

Source: News24

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