Johannesburg - The Curro Private School in Roodeplaat, north of Pretoria, set up secret meetings with white, Indian and coloured parents where the segregation of classes according to race was discussed.
These are the damning findings of an investigation conducted by the Gauteng department of education after the school’s decision to place black children in separate classes led to a revolt by black parents and caused a national outcry.
The investigators said it was “clear” that black parents with children in Grade R at the school were deliberately excluded from a meeting with white, coloured and Indian parents.
“It is unfortunate that the issue of the discriminatory segregation of classes in Grade R at the school was addressed in a manner that was itself discriminatory and that only the white, Indian and coloured parents were called to the meeting. In so doing, the school management behaved in a manner that was discriminatory, patronising and insulting to black parents,” the report reads.
The school has now been found guilty of violating the Equality Act and contravening sections of the Constitution. The investigation found that the school gave in to demands by white parents for their children not to be placed in the same classes as black pupils.
The segregation of pupils according to race led to an outcry by black parents, who threatened to pull their children out of the school in protest.
The school has now promised to send its teachers for sensitivity training to learn how to deal with people from different races.
It was found that the school gave in to pressure from white parents who did not want their children in the same classes as black pupils.
“The segregation took place as a result of pressure from certain white parents. The segregation of pupils by the school in the Grade R classes amounts to unfair discrimination on the basis of race, in contravention of section 9 of the Constitution,” the report read.
Even though Curro is a private school, the investigators said it was still subject to the laws of the country.
While the report commends the school for acting “swiftly” to address concerns around segregation in its English classes after black parents signed a petition to stop the segregation practice, the investigators admonished Curro for only acting after pressure from parents and the public.
“Within a short period of time, the classes were reshuffled in a manner that was appropriate in order to ensure that the classes reflected the racial demographics of the country.”
The investigators, Harris Nupen Molebatsi Attorneys, have now instructed that the school not exclude parents from future meetings based on race.
“It is recommended that, in the future, when meetings take place that affect pupils and in which the input and direction of parents is sought, that such meetings not be segregated, either in the manner of their calling or in their content and the effects thereof. This would send a message of inclusivity and consultation to all parties.”
The investigation also found that teachers employed at the school “do not reflect the diversity of the country” – all teachers, except for one, were white.
It advised the school to remedy that situation.
In a statement, Curro Holdings’ chief operating officer, Andries Greyling, reiterated that the school did not support the segregation of pupils at any of its 42 private schools.
“We will respect and consider carefully the findings, and any suggestions and recommendations of the inquiry. We now wish to move forward,” said Greyling.
He said Curro was already working with the relevant authorities to review the state of private education in the country and would continue at all times to promote an educational environment that was dedicated to “fostering a value system that honours child friendliness”.
Last week, Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi thanked Curro for co-operating with the investigation and for admitting that it had indeed segregated pupils according to race.
Lesufi said his department would help the school improve its management of race issues.