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Education Dept to visit 'racially-split school'

Almost 30 parents signed a petition to complain about young pupils being split up into classes based on race.

FILE: The Gauteng Education Department is today expected to visit the Curro Hazeldean Private School in Pretoria following an Eyewitness News story about accusations of racial segregation. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The Gauteng Education Department is today expected to visit the Curro Foundation School in Roodeplaat following an Eyewitness News story about accusations of racial segregation.

It was reported on Thursday that a group of almost 30 parents at the private school have signed a petition to complain about young pupils being split up into classes based on race.

The school denied this was a c ase of racial segregation, saying it was trying to protect children from minority groups, allowing them to make friends and preserve their culture.

Curro Holdings's André Pollard says white pupils are only kept together until there are enough children to split up equally.

"The Constitution protects learners, also for their culture. That's why we made the decision, when we have six learners, to rather put them in one class. When we have more than six and go to 12 learners, they split into two classes."

He says this issue affects mostly grade R to grade three and the formula is there to keep the school multicultural.

At the same time, the founder of Curro private schools, Chris Van der Merwe, says language also plays a role when it comes to splitting children up into classes.

Van der Merwe has denied allegations that skin colour is being used to determine the composition of classes.

He says Curro schools offer teaching in both Afrikaans and English and this also affects their decisions.

"Four of the class are English and two Afrikaans now obviously if your child can't benefit from an Afrikaans class, you don't send the child there."

The department says if the allegations of pupils being separated according to the colour of their skins is true, the school's actions must be condemned.

It says there's no room for racism at any school regardless of whether it's a public or private one.

Officials are to be sent to the school on Friday to investigate.

At the same time, a special parents meeting was due to be held on Thursday night.

While the school claims its promoting a multicultural environment parents have accused it of standing in the way of transformation.

Meanwhile, the South African (SAHRC) Human Rights Commission says separating children based on race perpetuates the legacy of apartheid.

The commission's Kayum Ahmed says, "It's often a misnomer that the Constitution can be excluded from private spaces even private businesses."

He says the SAHRC can investigate racism anywhere and anytime.

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation has also weighed in this morning, saying schools are supposed to be laboratories of nation building not enclaves of outdated apartheid thinking.