Angry parents keeping children out of school dismiss race undertone
Dissatisfaction at the appointment of school principals is being played out in different parts of the country. In Klipspruit in Gauteng, parents are aggrieved that a black principal has joined the school, while in Vredendal, in the the Western Cape, parents are angry at the appointment of a white principal.
Coloured parents in both instances have kept their children at home and some have even intimidated teachers and parents who sent their children to school.
Willem Nel, ANC ward councillor in Vredendal, said Vredendal North Primary School was a predominantly coloured school with a handful of black pupils. However, parents were not upset that a white principal had taken over from a coloured principal, but were claiming that the appointment process was unfair and that a family member or friend of the newly appointed principal influenced the decision-making process.
"The dissatisfaction is because there was manipulation and nepotism at the appointment of a new school principal. Parents are upset because an outside person was appointed as school principal and not someone from the area‚" said Nel.
Aggrieved parents handed over a memorandum to the school on Monday in which they asked that the new principal be removed from the school and that the appointment process start again. They said they would keep their children at home until the matter was resolved‚ according to Nel.
A parent of a grade 6 learner‚ who cannot be named to protect the identity of the child‚ said they wanted an investigation into the appointment as there was a far more suitable candidate for the position.
"I am not against the skin colour of the principal. We have been called racists‚ [but] we aren’t upset that she is a white woman. The process used to appoint the new principal wasn’t fair. There was a candidate who was with the school for more than a year. He wasn’t interviewed or shortlisted. We want the appointment process to be re-done. The new principal can come back to the school once the process is done. We want transparency on the appointment process‚" the angry parent said.
Jessica Shelver of the Western Cape Education Department has assured parents that the correct procedures were followed when appointing the new principal and that parents should put their concerns in writing to the department if they feel the process was not transparent or fair.
"Protests such as this disrupt teaching and learning time for both teachers and learners. There are reportedly high levels of intimidation and threats by some parents against other parents who wish to send their children to school. This behaviour is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated," she said.
"The only victims here are the learners.... There are ways and means to air grievances, but stopping your own children from going to school is simply not one of them."
The Institute for Race Relations (IRR) said that race should not form part of the decision-making process when appointing people to their jobs‚ said analyst Gabriela Mackay from the IRR.
"We believe that educators should be appointed on their merits and ability to do their jobs; race should not be a factor in determining capability," she said. "Parents being more involved in the overall appointment process may, in future, help ensure satisfactory results are achieved for all involved."
In a report released in February‚ 2‚291 people from all nine provinces were interviewed to ensure a fair sample of respondents‚ the IRR said. Of this sample group‚ 78% were black‚ 9.2% were coloured‚ 9.9% white and 2.8% Indian.
When asked whether respondents believed the right person should be appointed to the job regardless of their race‚ 82% said that race should not be an issue.
The pertinent question in the Klipspruit and Vredendal situation was asking respondents whether they would want their children to be taught by someone of the same race as themselves: 89% said that race did not matter and that skin colour did not play a role in who they prefer to teach their children.