24 January 2019

South Africa: Suspended Schweizer-Reneke Teacher Heads to the Labour Court

Photo: allafrica.com
Left: Elana Barkhuizen. Right: A cropped version of the viral photo that sparked outrage.

The suspension of Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke teacher Elana Barkhuizen is expected to take centre stage in the Labour Court in Johannesburg on Thursday when it hears an urgent application she lodged.

The school dominated headlines two weeks ago when a photograph of Grade R pupils went viral on social media. It showed black pupils sitting separately from white pupils.

Barkhuizen was then suspended, pending an investigation.

However, with the assistance of trade union Solidarity, she filed court papers alleging that her suspension was factually flawed.

In the court papers, she argued that she should not have been suspended because she was not the teacher who separated the pupils, adding that she was never given an opportunity to correct the misinformation.

She also contended that she was not informed of the intention to have her suspended, and was not provided with reasons.

No opposition to the application

North West Education MEC Sello Lehari, the department and the school governing body (SGB) have decided to no longer oppose the application.

Lehari said on Wednesday that he had withdrawn his initial notice to oppose the application and that he would abide by the court's judgment instead.

In an explanatory affidavit, which News24 has seen, Lehari explained his office's involvement in the matter.

He stated that since the North West Provincial Department of Education was placed under administration in terms of Section 100(1)(b) of the Constitution, the powers of his office were transferred to the Minister of Education.

"This will explain why no inference could be drawn by anyone with full knowledge of such known facts to aver that my office unduly influenced the principal or the governing body of the [school] to suspend [Barkhuizen]," Lehari said in the affidavit.

He further denied labelling Barkhuizen racist.

"All other reports made by a third party remain hearsay in so far as they relate to me and I do not admit them as a true reflection of what I expressed," the affidavit reads.

Source: News24

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