Durban - A teacher at an exclusive Durban private school has been suspended amid allegations of hurling racial slurs at Grade 4 pupils.
The parents of some the Grade 4 pupils in the Crawford La Lucia spoke to The Mercury on Sunday on condition of anonymity while others declined, in both cases for fear of their children being further victimised.
They each received an email from the school notifying them of the computer teacher’s immediate suspension for “misconduct”, a day after the incident on Tuesday.
“My son told me some of them were having trouble logging into the website they use for lessons. It happens that most of them were black, and when more and more children asked for help, she snapped at them and said the problem was that ‘you people have too many names’. She then pointed out all the black kids in the class, and continued with the unsavoury remarks,” said one parent.
Approached for comment, CrawfordSchools managing director Anwar Karrim on Sunday confirmed that allegations of racial remarks were raised against the teacher, whose name is being withheld.
It is not clear if it was the pupils who had reported the matter to school management.
The parent said: “It makes me so angry that in this day and age there are people who still perceive black people as lesser human beings. It’s unimaginable that a teacher subjected our children to such hatred. These are 9- and 10-year-olds; for her to think it was okay to say that to children is indicative of an environment which is conducive to racial behaviour and mindsets.”
The parents believe the month’s suspension is a slap on the wrist, but Karrim said “the suspension is not a penalty or sanction, but rather gives the school the opportunity to investigate the matter fully”.
The time frame was in accordance with the Labour Relations Act, which requires that a staff member must receive notice of the length of suspension.
“At this point, we cannot comment on the outcome of this investigation as it forms part of a process that may lead to disciplinary action,” said Karrim.
The parent also accused the school of downplaying the incident, but Karrim said “the staff and pupil code of conduct clearly states that victimisation, including but not limited to bullying, fighting, intimidation, sexual harassment and any display of racism or religious intolerance will be severely dealt with”.
This was not the experience of another parent, who claimed there was blatant racism at the school.
“I am not being delusional; I have seen and experienced it personally and heard from my son just how bad it is.”
She said while her children, who are Indian, excelled academically, the treatment they were subjected to at the school was breaking their spirits.
Both parents said they had complained about racial discrimination before, but Karrim denied having received any racial complaints.
“CrawfordSchools prides itself on having modern, progressive institutions of learning that embrace diversity. Because of this approach to education, CrawfordSchools are popular schools for parents who seek to provide their children with the opportunity to be exposed to, and to appreciate, cultural, religious and racial diversity,” he said,
In response to claims that the school hired only white teachers, he said although there were no permanent black African teachers employed at the school, there were a number of black teachers in terms of the definition of black in reference to the Black Economic Empowerment Act.
“CrawfordSchools is committed to transformation and actively seeks to employ excellent teachers who reflect the diversity of our student body,” Karrim said.
At least one of the mothers said they had tried to take their children out of the school but had difficulty finding a new school due to the time of the year. Two of them said their children would not be returning to Crawford La Lucia next year.