Teacher who separated white and black kids in North West not the one suspended

Black pupils allegedly segregated from white ones at Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke, North West, 9 January 2019. Picture: Twitter.

In a strange twist that first emerged on Friday, it has been confirmed that only the teacher who sent the photo was suspended and reportedly then fled the town.

Confusion around what is going on at Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke has continued, with the department of education confirming on Monday that the teacher running the class where black and white Grade R pupils were placed at separate desks is not the one who was suspended.

The young teacher who was instead suspended was the one who took the controversial photo and sent it to a parents’ WhatsApp group, apparently because she wanted to reassure parents that the children were settling in happily.

The class’ teacher is, however, still being investigated.

Teaching at the school returned to a form of normality with improved security on Monday after parents expressed concerns and many did not allow their pupils to return to school on Friday.

Those close to the matter told Netwerk24 on Friday already that the teacher named by government, Elana Barkhuizen, was not guilty of anything other than taking the photo and sharing it.

The school has 19 teachers, all of whom are white. The school uses primarily Afrikaans as a medium of instruction.

North West education member of the executive council (MEC) Sello Lehari visited the school on Thursday and decided to suspend only the one teacher.

A picture depicting four black children seated at a corner, separated from 18 white children in the Grade R class, went viral on social media on Wednesday.

Lehari annouced that Barkhuizen was suspended with immediate effect. He was speaking to community members after he had a closed meeting with the school management and other stakeholders.

He explained she was suspended to allow for the investigation to proceed unhindered.

“The school explained that the black learners were seated at a separate table because they did not understand English and Afrikaans. We did not accept their explanation,” he said.

Investigators are expected to present their report on the matter this week.

(Compiled by Charles Cilliers)

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