Rustenburg High shows up its junior school

While concerned parents continue to urge transformation at Rustenburg Girls’ Junior School (RGJS), Rustenburg Girls’ High School (RGHS) has — in contrast — been praised for its discussions with its alumni.

Parents for Change, a group of parents at RGJS, has reacted with outrage to the school’s most recent statement, in which it refuses to elect a new school governing body (SGB). The parents have demanded that the entire SGB step down, after allegations that the school had not followed proper procedures when it allegedly coerced a black teacher to resign.

The Mail & Guardian reported on teacher Nozipho Mthembu’s falling-out with the school last week. Some parents had said that Mthembu was incompetent. Mthembu said she was never told by the school why her competency was questioned, but SGB chairperson Gavin Downard said there had been “discussions” with Mthembu about her teaching.

Parents for Change, however, has accused the school of racism. The SGB met on Wednesday to discuss the demands from the group and resolved that the SGB would not be reconstituted because it had been democratically elected.

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

The school has now accepted an invitation from the Western Cape education department to organise a meeting between Downard and Parents for Change. It has also invited the school’s alumni to attend the meeting.

But Parents for Change, which consists of 24 core members, remains unconvinced by the school’s statement: “They appear hellbent on retaining the status quo despite the cost to the school.”

In contrast, Rustenburg Girls’ High School (RGHS) was not implicated in the scandal and has shown a more genuine desire to transform in its response to criticism from its alumni, said Parents for Change.

The high school’s former pupils wrote to the high school’s governing body about their experiences when they attended the school.

READ MORE: Old girls criticise Rustenburg’s lack of transformation

“The black women signed to this letter learnt early on that becoming more ‘white’ in Rustenburg — by adapting how we spoke, what we shared of our home lives, what our parents could afford and how we presented ourselves — was an important tool in fitting in, getting ahead, and in securing recognition for our abilities,” the alumni wrote.

“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,” they said.

The high school’s principal, Michael Gates, has invited the alumni to meet the school. “We would value your input to help us create an environment where our current and future pupils feel at home at Rustenburg,” Gates wrote.

The high school has now organised dates to meet the alumni and the entire school community.

Parents for Change said the high school’s response to criticism has been more satisfactory than the junior school’s. “A young teacher’s career has been damaged. Learners actually believe that black people can’t be teachers. The high school’s response … is completely opposite to the junior school.”

The parents have said they will continue to apply pressure on Rustenburg to transform.

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Raeesa Pather
Raeesa Pather
Ra’eesa Pather is a Cape Town-based general news and features journalist.

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