'Segregated' classroom photo sparks race row in South Africa

Laerskool Schweizer Reneke

The parent, who preferred to remain anonymous, painted a grim picture of what transpired after she dropped of her 6-year-old at Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke.

Briefly.co.za learned the parent contacted the principal, who claimed to be unaware of the situation.

The BBC's Milton Nkosi in South Africa says Schweizer-Reneke is conservative rural town with a population of just under 50,000, surrounded by a farming community made up of mainly white Afrikaners.

Soon after the incident went viral, the province's MEC for Education and Sport Development, Sello Lehari, condemned the connotations of racial segregation the controversial image suggested and vowed to pay the school a visit.

He added: "We are suspending her [the teacher] because we want the investigation to be fair and free". Language policy has historically been used to exclude black learners.

The picture showed the 18 white learners in the classroom all occupying a single large desk in the middle of the classroom, while the four black children in the class occupied one desk in a corner at the far end of the classroom.

According to local media, the picture was shared by the class teacher on the school's WhatsApp group.

"We saw the photo and we were also angered by what we saw", Jozeph du Plessis, chairman of the school's governing body, told the eNCA television channel.

Some white parents have removed their children from the school because they fear for their safety.

After meeting school staff and education department officials, Mr Lehare confirmed that the form teacher in question had been suspended.

Political leaders in the National Freedom Party (NFP) called for the school to be shut down and said it was proof that public education was failing across the country.

Some white parents on Thursday took their children from the school after protesters gathered outside.

"The North West provincial government condemns any form of racism in the strongest possible terms and deeply regrets this unfortunate incident 25 years into the democratic dispensation", Ngesi said.

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