Growing up in the farming town of Wellington during apartheid‚ Sarah Grant-Smith – a parent at Rustenburg Girls’ Junior School‚ which is currently embroiled in a race row — hardly had any contact with black people in her social circle. Not only did she grow up in a ‘whites only’ suburb‚ but all her classmates were lily white.
When South Africa became a democratic country 24 years ago‚ she imagined a society where her two daughters would grow up in an “inclusive environment” with no racial prejudice or feeling of supremacy.
But over the years she realised that her children were not fully experiencing the inclusive society that she imagined‚ particularly at their school‚ which is currently under fire for allegedly discriminating against its first black teacher‚ Nozipho Mthembu – a process that ended in the teacher’s “constructive dismissal”.
The 26-year-old teacher took the school to the CCMA demanding compensation following consistent unpleasant treatment.
She alleged that not only did the school single her out for a ‘mentorship programme’ which left her more traumatised than supported‚ but the school principal‚ Di Berry‚ and school governing body (SGB) chairman Gavin Downward gave her an ultimatum to resign or face disciplinary action that would ruin “ruin her reputation”.
The school told her that parents questioned her competency and that she was teaching their children.
It is this ‘lack of inclusivity’ at the school that prompted Grant-Smith to join Parents for Change — a group of concerned parents whose children attend the school. The parents broke their silence on Tuesday – saying that they could no longer sit back and watch young girls being exposed to an environment that didn’t prepare them for the future of this country.
Grant-Smith says she wants her grade 5 and grade 3 daughters not to grow up in an environment where whiteness is the standard.