Staff members and parents picketed at Disa Primary school, in Hout Bay, on Friday to protest against retrenchments and alleged racism at the school. | Supplied
Staff members and parents picketed at Disa Primary school, in Hout Bay, on Friday to protest against retrenchments and alleged racism at the school. | Supplied

’School wants us gone because we stood up against racism ’ - staff at Cape primary school

By Chelsea Geach Time of article published Dec 12, 2020

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Cape Town - After months of protesting against alleged racism at Disa Primary School in Hout Bay, scores of staff members are now facing retrenchment over the festive season.

Staff members at the school said they are being fired because they stood up against racism at the school. However, the school says it is a planned retrenchment process due to a reduction in donor funding.

One teaching assistant, who asked not to be named out of fear of victimisation, said that 39 black staff members were facing retrenchment just before Christmas.

She said all the assistant teachers and support staff were being retrenched. “It’s because we stood up and said there is discrimination and racism at the school. We were fighting against racism. The school promised to tackle the issues but they never rectified things.”

The teaching assistant, who has worked at the school for five years, participated in a picket yesterday inside the school’s hall where staff and parents demonstrated their discontent with the retrenchment process and the ongoing allegations of racism.

“The black side of the staff are tired, that’s why they are now up in arms,” she said.

Another teaching assistant who has worked at the school since 2012 said that standing up against discrimination at the school over the past few months had resulted in them being labelled as troublemakers.

“(On Thursday) we had a meeting and they said 100% of us will be fired. We are protesting because all the black people have been fired and the white people are staying.

“We are so angry.”

According to the Andreas and Susan Strüngmann Foundation, which provides 85% of the funds required to run Disa Primary, the level of funding is not sustainable and this is the cause for the retrenchments.

“The protest (yesterday) was in relation to planned retrenchment at the school, due to a reduction in donor funding,” a statement from the foundation said.

“The foundation’s goal is to support the education of children and Disa is one of its beneficiaries in South Africa. To ensure future sustainability, level of funding is being reduced over the next two financial years. The retrenchments and/or salary adjustments affect all categories of staff.”

The foundation said it had received complaints of racism at the school in February. After an investigation, some issues surrounding maternity pay were resolved, and other allegations were found to have no grounds.

“There have never been findings of racism or racial discrimination arising from an investigation at the school,” the statement said.

Halli Manolakos-Tsehisi, who heads up the foundation in South Africa, said: “We would like to stress that the objective of this restructuring process is to put the interests of the learners of Disa Primary first and provide them with excellent and sustainable quality education into the future.

“Additionally, we want to retain skilled and experienced staff and contribute to the development of staff, while establishing fair, equitable and sustainable pay structures.”

Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the staff members facing retrenchment were employees of the school governing body and not the WCED.

“The consultation process is being facilitated by the CCMA and supported by union representation to ensure transparency and to deal with any issues that arise through the process. We are not aware of any findings of racism at the school,” she said.

Weekend Argus

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