Shortly after the picture from North West primary school Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke of what appeared to be a racially segregated classroom went viral, another photograph circulated showing the same children in the same classroom, this time racially integrated and working happily together.
What the second photograph means, however, appears to be a matter of interpretation.
On Twitter, some have shared their view that the second pic shows that the outrage over the first pic was unwarranted, as the school is clearly more integrated than the first picture indicated. Others, however, believe the second picture was staged in an attempt to quell the outrage. Twitter “detectives” have been hard at work, sharing evidence that supports either of these two narratives.
The Citizen initially reported on Thursday that people on social media, including popular anonymous parody account @AdvBarryRoux, shared the second pic showing the children playing happily together. The conclusion drawn by @AdvBarryRoux, and reported on by The Citizen, was that the classroom may have been rearranged following the backlash to the original image.
“After the first picture went viral. They rearranged the kids,” wrote the parody account in the tweet’s caption.
A later version of the same article provided greater context after some pointed out that the pictures had been taken on the same day and may not have been a reaction to the controversy – although of course they may still have been.
Entertainment commentator Phil Mphela tweeted metadata that he said proved that the pics were taken mere “minutes apart”.
“I think it is shameful that someone in that room shared the pic via WhatsApp to agitate and spark a racial outrage where there was none,” Mphela tweeted.
“People, myself included, rightfully reacted with disgust to the pic. It’s disgusting that someone would use this serious issue like this,” he continued.
This led to a heated Twitter argument with lawyer Tumi Sole, who tweeted that that the pics were subject to “data manipulation”.
Sole was met with support from some Twitter users who shared their own evidence alleging to show such manipulation.
“These pics are strategically placed (FAKE) to fit the said time frames. Check the space at the bottom part of the frame on both. Zoom the picture in”, tweeted @Dopla101. “Look at the same picture, it has different metadata” tweeted @zovuyo2002, “I could easily forge those time stamps,” tweeted @Just_Ey3s, who also asked: “How do you explain the segregated table being a four seater, which equals the number of black kids? And the parent that was interviewed?”
The original tweets have not been included in this article in cases where they show the faces of the learners due to the Child Protection Act. Screenshots below are cropped so as not to show the childrens’ faces. The actual metadata provided by the Twitter users can be found in their initial tweets.
The teacher who is believed to have shared the picture has been suspended pending an investigation into the matter by the North West department of education.
North West education and sport development MEC Sello Lehari said that the story given to him by the teacher was that the children were separated based on which of them could understand Afrikaans and English.
“We did not accept the explanation,” he told community members, adding that a decision on the fate of the principal of the school had not been taken.
News24 reported on Friday morning that racism in the small North West town of Schweizer-Reneke is “rife”. The article quotes a teacher from the town who says she has visited the school and that children there “play separately according to race”.
The school, however, released a statement saying the photo was taken out of context and they support inclusivity. More on that statement here.
AfriForum’s Kallie Kriel shared a link to an article from Maroela Media that he said shows the “other side” of the story in support of the now suspended teacher.
The teacher has now reportedly fled the town in the wake of the backlash.
— Kallie Kriel (@kalliekriel) January 11, 2019
An interesting & ???? analysis on data manipulation occurred on my thread earlier when responding to Phil.
You’ll note that he relied on Jen’s pics which I maintained they were manipulated with the help of @MokoenaDee
— Tumi Sole (@tumisole) January 10, 2019
@AuntieMlungu and with patience detailed & confirmed that the pics Phil & Jen posted were manipulated.
You can see the replies to my thread for more on this debate.
In short, should you be told that it was a ‘re-org’ it’s BS! pic.twitter.com/K5UNpvVxCR
— Tumi Sole (@tumisole) January 10, 2019