Voices

Racist? Parents speak abour their Curro school experiences

2015-07-12 16:15

MAKHOSI CHIWASHIRA IN JOBURG

What attracted you to the school? How did you hear about it?

I heard about Curro from a friend who had two children there. She moved her children from one of the other private schools to Curro. When I went on the website, I was impressed that the model looked solid and there were so many schools, including boarding schools, which is where I would ultimately want my son to be when he gets to Grade 5 or 6.

What has your son’s experience been?

Teething problems at first, but he is loving it. He says it was the best decision to take him to Curro.

Have you noticed anything about race that made you take notice?

My first sort of encounter with an uneasy feeling was when the Grade 3 teachers were introduced at a Welcome Day late last year. They were and still are all white. This made me feel uncomfortable. I went back to the website to check the teachers to find that in the primary school the staff complement was at least 95% white. Looking at the number of black children there, it made me feel there were transformation issues in the school. Even when they went on camp at the end of April, I was a bit uncomfortable. The majority of teachers who went with them were white. I don’t remember seeing a black teacher (African black, coloured or Indian).

Another thing I have noticed is that my son is in a class that only has black pupils. If there are white pupils in Grade 3, why not put them in his class? I am aware that all the Grade 3 classes do Afrikaans as a subject, so why not have a good spread of teachers of colour and then have the Afrikaans taught by an expert? That makes me really uncomfortable.

When you heard about the separate classrooms at another school, what did you do?

When the first reported incident happened, I made it a point to check when I went to Curro and asked my son how they were mixed.

How did you interpret the bus film? (On a field trip at Curro Roodeplaat, the black pupils were on one bus and the white ones on another.)

It is discrimination of the highest order and I am worried about how the children felt. They are sensitive to these things and, at that age, they do not understand why they cannot be with each other. I could see there was some confusion, as kids were not sure which way to go.

As a parent, how do you understand the separation-by-language policy of the schools?

There shouldn’t be separation based on language. I went to a school where we either did French or history and that was the only time we were separated, which was about twice a week. Otherwise, we were all mixed in the various classes. It makes our children self-conscious and feel inferior to the other group. Sending them to a school like Curro is a sacrifice by parents to ensure that their children get the best education. But we don’t want our children to come out feeling like second-class citizens because they are treated differently from their white peers.

GRINGOE MASHALABA IN CAPE TOWN

Why did you choose to send your little one to Curro?

Choosing Curro was more of an accident, although I had considered it during the application process. After a ton of applications to various public schools [mostly top-end ones] in Cape Town’s northern suburbs, we were frustrated at the possibility of our son not being able to go to [a good] school.

Various ridiculous reasons were given for not enrolling him. The most common was that we lived outside the target area of that particular school.

All the responses to our applications came back with more or less the same reply, or we were told the school was full already.

It was at this frustrating time that a friend whose child attended the same preschool as our son alerted us to a new Curro school that was opening in Century City. This was very attractive because the enrolment fees were half the normal price (R3 000 instead of the normal R6 000). So we applied and were successful at the first attempt. My wife and I had hoped to keep him there for a year and look for a public school afterwards, but after the first term we were convinced it was the right school for him. My son is now in Grade 3.

What has been your experience so far?

So far, we’ve had a wonderful experience at Curro. Because it’s a new school, it was expected that they would have a few challenges in the beginning, but I am impressed at the way things have improved.

We love the learning environment there and the overall treatment of all the children.

Although it is not a Christian school, it has a Christian ethos and all the staff strive to live up to this ethos. I was particularly impressed with how the teachers developed close bonds with the children individually, regardless of their background. My son had the same teacher in Grade 1 and Grade 2, and he was close to the teacher.

How many black teachers are at the school?

At first there were only a handful of coloured teachers (I count them as black) at the school and no African teachers at all. However, this year, I have noticed a few young black teachers who have joined the staff, although they are still at a junior level.

Does this matter to you?

The absence of black teachers doesn’t bother me at all. After all, it is how the teacher interacts with the child that’s more important to me. The colour of the teacher’s skin is of no consequence.

I’m concerned that they introduced Afrikaans as one of the languages in Grade 2, but not any other African language. I also appreciate the challenges that could come with introducing an African language, but I feel it is worth giving it a try.

What does the ruckus about Curro mean to you?

Because of my experience at my child’s school, I am not necessarily bothered by the controversy about Roodeplaat [in Gauteng]. I also think the media and people should make the distinction that the school that has been in the news is Curro Roodeplaat – not just Curro, as if there’s just one Curro school.

I believe each of the schools has its own identity that is influenced by the surroundings the school is in.

Curro Holdings took a clear position during the first incident at Roodeplaat and, knowing the goings-on at my child’s school, I am not at all bothered by the ruckus.

However, I will remain vigilant in case similar tendencies crop up at the school. But for now, I am content

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November 18 2018