Academic activities were disrupted in a South African school on Monday as parents locked up the school gate to protest the appointment of a black teacher.
Pupils of Klipspruit Secondary School near Johannesburg were forced to miss the first day of new term when angry parents and residents barred them from class in a protest against the appointment of a black principal in a mainly coloured neighbourhood. IOL reports that the protesters say they want the principal replaced with someone who community members can identify with.
South Africans refer to people of mixed race as ‘colored’. According to census figures, they are the single biggest race group after black and white people.
Residents of Klipspruit community say there is a lack of representation of coloured people in the school’s leadership positions.
Henry Charles, a spokesman of the school’s governing body said: “They said coloreds and blacks are the same and I said but this is a colored area and they said I am being racist. We want a colored principal because this is a colored area.”
Other protesters alleged that the selection process was marred with irregularities.
“We are a majority coloured community. Then they appoint people to a selection committee who are illegitimate and create a shortlist where only one of the six candidates is coloured–when 11 coloured candidates applied,” Charis Pretorius of the Patriotic Association of South Africa (Pasa) queried.
Oupa Bodipe, a senior official of the region’s Education Department however discounted the claims. He described Klipspruit as a historically “coloured” area but argued that the majority of the pupils in the school are black Africans, adding that it was very much a racially mixed school.
Oupa Bodibe also described the protest as racist adding that there were no grounds to reverse the appointment.
“The department has learnt the disturbing news that the community in Klipspruit West has rejected the principal because of skin colour. This action is strongly condemned, as it runs against the non-racial principles of our society. Educators are appointed on the basis of qualification and experience.”
Reports in local media say the school reopened on Tuesday after a series of consultations between the school’s governing body, officials of the Education Department, parents and SA Teachers Democratic Union.