Toddler refers to herself as a `naughty K***** - horrified mom seeks answers

By Time of article published Nov 2, 2021

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Prashirwin Naidu

A West Rand mother of two, Samantha Cakwebe, was horrified when her three-year-old daughter admonished herself using the ’K-word’ at home recently.

Cakwebe went to the creche her daughter attends, but found her complaint was treated shabbily. In desperation, she turned to the Department of Social Development for help after her child was kicked out of the creche in Roodepoort.

The child was booted out of the school because her mom dared to raise the alleged incident over the use of the ’K-word’ word allegedly by teachers on children at the learning facility. The DSD has confirmed it is looking into her complaint.

But when she tried to get to the bottom of the matter, Cakwebe said she was bullied in a threatening email from the school. Cakwebe told the Sunday Independent she was horrified and traumatized when her child could repeatedly be heard telling herself that “you are a naughty kaffir.” Her husband had listened to the child use the ’K-word’ too, in disbelief.

The child attended creche at Krabbel & Babbel Early Childhood Development Center in Jim Fouche Road, Constantia Kloof, which has been in existence for 20 years. All teachers at the creche are white.

“The first day I heard my baby uttering that word was 16 October. But I ignored it, thinking I heard wrong. Then the next day, her father told me she used the phrase twice.

“On 19 October, Cakwebe said she met with the school principal Mariaan Luyt – and recorded the meeting with the knowledge of the principal and educators. “It’s only at the school that my girl could have picked up such a word as she doesn’t interact with other kids where we live. I confronted them because I suspect she could have picked it up from being spoken to like this at the creche. But at a meeting with the principal and three staff members, they denied using the ’K-word’ word on children,” Cakwebe said.

On October 21, after raising the matter with the principal, Cakwebe said she received an email “to cease and desist from contacting other parents” and that she was in breach of the school’s code of conduct. Thus her agreement with the school was terminated with immediate effect. The child currently has no school to go to.

“The principal said, unfortunately, she could not discipline anyone without proof, so I told her that I would be informing the relevant authorities about this incident. I also told her I would be taking my child out of the school, but I will be sorting out the problem as I strongly believe the school has a problem,” she added.

Cakwebe then checked with other parents to see if they had similar experiences. “Two out three calls I made said they have not picked up anything wrong but will monitor. One mother told me that the child was showing her different colors, and when she referred to black, she pointed at her skin; the mother was shocked and wanted to know why she would point at her skin when referring to black instead of brown, but the child didn’t respond.

“The other parent told me that her son was calling himself a monkey. I did not in any way influence these parents to say what they told me as I was trying to understand if there was a pattern,” she said.

Cakwebe said it appears that she was wrong in contacting other parents, while the real complaint has gone unattended. “As blacks, our money is good, but not us as human beings,” she said.

Parents contacted for comment, were afraid to speak their minds, for fear of suffering a similar fate as Cakwebe’s child.

The school’s principal, Luyt, said in an email response that the allegations made against her and the school, including staff, are very serious. “I have taken them very seriously. I have taken all steps necessary in order to address them accordingly, and after that, the following is my current way of dealing with this very serious matter:

“At our meeting, she (the parent) confirmed that she was not happy with my initial feedback and lack of discipline. The problem was obviously the fact that no one, not even the parent, is able to identify who needs to be punished as a result of the fact that the child could not confirm where she heard this word.

“I brought in my entire (staff) to request confirmation of the use of the word at the school, and my staff members confirmed, as they are always in pairs at school, that no teacher or assistant has used the term in our school. Therefore, due to the lack of further direction, we were unable to find proof that the behaviour that was being copied by the minor child was from our school. We are fully prepared to discipline any staff member of our school should we find that they used this term,” she said.

Luyt said, the creche had called the parents of all the children in this particular class for a thorough discussion around this issue, and more importantly, in order to enquire whether the parents have experienced a similar issue with their children. “None of the parents at the meeting alerted us to experiencing a problem of this nature. One of our parents was a returning parent and confirmed this in the class as a testament to how her first child was treated in our care.”

She added that the use of the word is not allowed in, nor was it ever allowed in all the years that this school has operated. Regarding the termination of the contract, the principal said the parent, after agreeing to let the school handle this issue, used the school group to phone parents to express understandable frustration; however, this led to the breach of the protection of the privacy of the other parents most of whom lodged a complaint against this breach of their rights.

“This led to an offense that calls for immediate termination of the contract between the school and parent. This is a contractual breach. We were left with no choice but to terminate the relationship. The parent was showing the behavior of a person who had no interest in building a working relationship but rather to sabotage all etiquette policies in place,” she said.

Furthermore, Luyt said she had invited the DSD to conduct an independent investigation and would cooperate fully on this sensitive matter.

“Our rights remain entirely reserved in this discussion and wish the parent and beautiful minor child all the best in their journey; we are very sad to part ways entirely but fully understand.”

Hope Mokgatlhe, the spokesperson for Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, said racism is illegal and has no place in our schools. “The relevant department will have to investigate this particular incident thoroughly, and if found to be true, to take corrective action and or any sanctions necessary.”

Mokgatlhe said that a functional shift of ECD centres/creches from Social Development to DBE is still underway, and there is a task team reporting to both Ministers regularly.

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