Old girls criticise Rustenburg’s lack of transformation

Former Rustenburg Girls Junior and High School learners have expressed disappointment at the public school’s lack of transformation and the “disturbing racial undertones” to the junior school’s alleged mistreatment of a former black teacher.

In an open letter addressed to the junior school’s governing body on Wednesday, concerned former pupils addressed the controversy over its treatment of former Grade 5 teacher Nozipho Mthembu.

“We are astounded by the fact that it took the governing body of Rustenburg Girls’ Junior School (RGJS) 24 years since the end of apartheid to appoint its first black African teacher,” the letter said.

Mthembu was employed as a class teacher by the school in January 2018. The only other black teacher at the school was the isiXhosa teacher. Mthembu told the Mail & Guardian last week that within nine months of her employment, she was admitted to hospital for stress and anxiety and that she was “coerced” to resign.

The junior school’s governing body and the Western Cape department of education have denied that they coerced Mthembu to resign, insisting that due process was followed. Debbie Schäfer, the MEC for education, has said that RGJS had appropriately asked Mthembu to resign “after ongoing legitimate concerns that were raised with her.” Parents, however, found the process discriminatory.

READ MORE: Cape school accused of coercing black teacher to resign

The letter from former students said: “We are deeply concerned that an environment at Rustenburg Junior School exists where a child can openly pose the question; ‘Are black teachers real teachers?’. It is extraordinary that this was the first time for many being taught by a Black teacher, outside of isiXhosa classes.”

The old girls have accused the school of not being inclusive: “The dominant culture and ethos of the school turned on white eurocentric values, with little done to acknowledge the diversity within our student body.

“We urge RGJS and RGHS to publicly answer for the limited transformation achieved to date, to critically assess its working practices and culture, and to put in place measures to fix what is broken.”

Since the M&G published the story last Friday, old girls from both the junior and senior schools have take to social media to describe their experiences at the school. In a statement released by Rustenburg Girls’ High School on Wednesday, past pupils have been invited to give their input to help the school create an environment where pupils can feel at home.

Admitting that this process is long overdue, the high school has promised to accelerate transformation at the school by engaging with learners, staff and through parents on the school governing body.

“Transformation and diversity are extremely important to us,” high school principal Michael Gates said in a statement released on Wednesday too.

“Deliberate steps have been taken to create opportunities for meaningful engagement. This has included facilitated workshops for the entire staff complement, specific training for subject teachers, a ‘Dialogue Day’ for the entire school community, and a team of teachers who provide opportunities for learners to discuss relevant issues and concerns.”

READ MORE: Parents, W Cape education department clash over Rustenburg school racism allegations

“We stand by Ms Mthembu, and hope that no future students, teachers or members of the wider Rustenburg community will have to face a similar ordeal,” the old girls’ letter concluded.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Are elite former white schools ‘the best’?

In terms of both finances and learning outcomes, it’s important to look beyond prestige

Rustenburg Girls Junior School allegedly discouraged underprivileged pupil

RGJS now faces allegations of racism in its admissions policy

Editorial: Othering is apartheid

'The initiative by Parents for Change reminds us that the change most of us yearn for is something that we should not stop fighting for'

Rustenburg High shows up its junior school

Parents for Change said the high school’s response to criticism has been more satisfactory than the junior school’s

Parents, W Cape education department clash over Rustenburg school racism allegations

Parents are outraged after the Western Cape education department denied that black teacher Nozipho Mthembu was mistreated

Sekhukhune’s five-year battle for water back in court

The residents of five villages are calling for the district municipal manager to be arrested

Fees free fall, independent schools close

Parents have lost their jobs or had salaries cut; without state help the schools just can’t survive

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed

White men still rule and earn more

Women and black people occupy only a few seats at the JSE table, the latest PwC report has found

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday