A group of concerned parents have called for the student governing body (SGB) at Rustenberg Girls’ Junior School to be dissolved – saying they were not capable of taking the school where it needs to be in terms of transformation.
The group, Parents for Change, made this call at a media briefing at the St Mark’s Anglican Church on Tuesday November 6, following the alleged forced resignation of a black grade 5 teacher amid allegations of racism.
The Western Cape Department of Education and the SGB have however, hit back saying the group was misrepresenting the facts around the case.
WCED spokeswoman Bronagh Hammond said the group had first approached the department in November last year regarding the slow progress of transformation at the school.
“When the department became aware that some parents were raising concerns, the head of department (HOD) and a team of top officials personally met with the group to try and understand the nature of their concerns and to listen to their inputs,” she said.
Ms Hammond said an undertaking was given that in 2018 a series of engagements would be set up with various role players to hear all sides of the story and to ultimately seek a conciliatory approach to the issues raised – as the year was drawing to an end.
“In 2018, as agreed upon, a series of meetings were arranged between the WCED and various role players, including the school management team (SMT), the SGB, and the concerned parents group,” she said.
At the meeting, the group’s Nuraan Davids said while they had met with various role players, they never felt that their concerns were being listened too.
“There has been a break down and we have not been able to engage with the principal or work with the current SGB,” she said.
Ms Hammond said an agreement was reached by all parties for co-operation and that the concerned group would form part of the SGBs diversity sub-committee.
But, another member and concerned parent Tania Katzschner said a transformation plan was put in place and approved last year but their had been no commitment in terms of the implementation of the plan. She said their predecessors had resigned because of this very issue.
“The plan has been approved but their is simply not enough enthusiasm, engagement and commitment to work with this plan,” she said.
Ms Katzschner said they had been trying to work with the school for the past two years and did not want to rush out to the media, but were not being treated as allies and partners by the school. She said it was an uncomfortable but necessary dialogue.
Ms Davids believes that there a few quick fixes which includes having a good leader at the school and the SGB and re-assessing the teacher body – saying children needed role models and some point of resonance.
“My daughter only has one kind of teacher and doesn’t know what its like to be taught be a teacher of colour. It’s very hard for a black teacher to go an apply for a job at a school like Rustenberg,” said Ms Davids.
She said they had received backlash and had been accused of stocking the situation but said that had not been the case.
In a media statement, the SGB said the teacher had resigned voluntarily in September but had later lodged a dispute with the CCMA. The SGB said they had numerous meetings and interventions with the teacher to address the challenges she experience in carrying out her core function as a teacher.
“The additional support provided was not successful and we believed the right thing to do was provide the teacher with an option of resigning instead of undergoing more intensive performance management action. The termination of the relationship was in no way motivated by race.”
“We are fully committed to transforming the school to be reflective of our diverse nation,” the statement read.
Ms Hammond said WCED remained committed to an ongoing process of reconciling the differences between all parties and ensuring that participative processes by all interested groups take place.
“We will, again, offer to meet shortly, and recommend external specialist mediation,” she said.
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