Cape Town - Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer has been lambasted by some Rustenburg Girls’ Junior School (RGJS) parents after she said the only black teacher at the school, who was coerced to resign, was treated fairly.
Grade 5 teacher and former RGJS pupil Nozipho Mthembu said she was unfairly discriminated against and asked to resign by the school principal, Di Berry, or face a disciplinary hearing for reasons she has yet to be informed about.
Mthembu, who started teaching at the school in January, was told that certain parents were not happy with her competency as a teacher and she was put on an “eight-point competency plan” by the school, which other teachers were not privy to. Mthembu was later invited into an unconventional meeting with the school principal, where her phone was taken away and she was asked to voluntarily resign or face a disciplinary hearing.
Mthembu then launched a complaint of unfair labour practice and discrimination with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and it was acknowledged by the commission that unfair labour practices were used by the school.
Schäfer responded to the news about the teacher being let go due to discrimination, saying: “The point of departure is that if a person of colour is dismissed, it must be racism.
“Mthembu resigned after ongoing legitimate concerns were raised with her. Out of respect for her privacy, these have not been disclosed. The admission of wrongdoing by the school at the CCMA was because of issues of procedure regarding the process followed - SGB’s are not experts in HR processes - not because of racism.
“At the time we were also not aware of allegations of racism. The educator was employed by the SGB and not the WCED. The department therefore was not aware of the processes relating to the teacher’s appointment.”
A group of concerned parents at Rustenburg who created a group called Parents for Change, responded to Schäfer, saying Mthembu’s ill-treatment is a direct symptom of the institutional issues parents previously raised about the school.
The group said Schäfer’s response is driven by a political imperative and doesn’t address the real issues of creating schools where all children can belong and enjoy equal opportunity.
“(Mthembu) was subjected to numerous incidents of humiliation by parents without the school or the SGB intervening. Schäfer seems to be sure that no ill-treatment was meted out to Mthembu – this, despite claiming that the WCED had no knowledge of her appointment or of her resignation.
“We urge Schäfer to read the settlement agreement and speak to the school parent present at the CCMA meeting before further comment.”
The SGB said Mthembu was aware of the challenges she experienced as a teacher carrying out her duty, as the school has a record of meetings and interventions held to assist her.
The SGB held that Mthembu’s dismissal was not race-related. Mthembu held her position that the school hasn’t shared the concerns parents raised regarding her teaching with her and said the school has since replaced her with “a white teacher”.
“I know exactly why they were concerned… because a black teacher is teaching their kids at a school striving for excellence, which is the school motto. What excellence are you striving for? Whiteness?”