Monday 10 December 2018
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iol - 26 days ago

Rustenburg Girls’ Junior principal aims to retire as controversy rages on

Cape Town – Rustenburg Girls’ Junior School (RGJS) principal Di Berry will retire at the end of this year amid controversy over the prestigious school’s slow pace of transformation. This also comes as calls mount for a head that would spearhead a transformed space where no learner or staff member was excluded. The recruitment process for her successor was ongoing, the school said. Founded in 1894 in historic Rustenburg House, the school has yet to appoint a person of colour as principal. Berry’s post was advertised last month and the vacancy list closed on October 12. Provincial education department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said Berry was above the normal retirement age. Last week, a group calling themselves “Parents for Change” lifted the lid on two years of struggle to implement transformation policies and the alleged inaction of the provincial education department and school officials. They particularly took issue with Berry who they said treated their transformation proposals with “negativity”. The parents spoke out following a Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration process, where teacher Nozipho Mthembu said she had been unfairly discriminated against and asked to resign or face a disciplinary hearing for reasons she had yet to be informed about. Mthembu was the school’s first black African teacher and a former pupil. She had been told some parents questioned her competence and had been unhappy that she was teaching their children, she said. One child apparently asked: “Are black teachers real teachers?” This week, emails emerged where the school was seen to have suggested that a black pupil would not fit in after a generous couple reached out and offered to pay for all 12 years of the Khayelitsha girl’s fees. Among concerns cited in an email to the donors in 2015 was that “friendships at school often result in play dates, which can also become tricky because of the distance in travel, and result in a child feeling isolated and excluded”. Yesterday, the school governing body (SGB) admitted that in hindsight, the wording or phrasing of the communication to the sponsor did not accurately convey its intent. The SGB told the Cape Times Berry had reached retirement age and decided to retire. “The recruitment process for her successor is ongoing following the usual process of advertisement and interviews, with a panel comprised of school management representatives and parents making the final decision, in line with provincial department employment equity objectives. The school has been actively trying to diversify its staff complement, they added. “For example, learnerships at RGJS were open to all tertiary students pursuing an education qualification until 2015. “To help attract a pipeline of diverse teaching talent, the learnerships were more specifically targeted at applicants of colour from 2016. ‘‘The stipend provided during the learnership was also increased in 2016 to make the learnerships even more attractive to applicants.” The SGB said RGJS served pupils from different backgrounds/races/cultures, and while the transformation journey had not been as fast as it would like, the school continued to make strides on this front, with the holistic well-being of all students the primary concern. “The transformation objectives pursued are in line with government requirements,” the SGB said. Cape Times

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