eMail alerts & Newsletter

Sign up to receive email updates when new content is loaded on the site.
Newsletter: From Evidence to Action

Segregation row: principal says sorry

Pretoria - “South Africans don’t want to go back to the pre-1994 era in our country. That’s what I’ve learnt this week. And I’m deeply sorry for my comments on segregating children at our school.”

These were the words of regret from Andre Pollard, the principal at Curro School in Pretoria, who unleashed a storm of criticism around the country this week after admitting to separating Grade 1 pupils at school based on race.

Speaking to the Sunday Tribune, Pollard said he did not realise the offence he had caused. “I apologised to the parents at our school and we agreed that they would form part of all planning of classes going forward. We have decided to split the children equitably.

“I really did not mean to offend anyone with my comments and am really sorry for the hurt caused.

“The response made me realise that most South Africans want to move forward in social integration and don’t want to return to pre-1994.”

Pollard’s apology follows the intervention of both the national Education Ministry, which visited the school, and the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), which is investigating a complaint of racism at the school.

The furore was sparked after a group of parents had reportedly objected to a group of white children being placed in a class of their own while another class was made up exclusively of black pupils.

The reason given by Pollard was “children found it easier to make friends with those from their own culture” and that white children, being the minority at the school, felt a sense of “security” around other white children.

Despite the backlash over Pollard’s statements, the chief executive of Curro Holdings, Chris van der Merwe, this week said the group felt vindicated by a jump in the company’s share price.

“Our share prices have jumped by 5 percent, the biggest leap we’ve seen, and that tells us that the majority of people believe in what we are doing. We have 36 000 pupils, of which 24 000 are black.

“The class with only white children at our school happens to be those pupils who have chosen Afrikaans, which we cannot change as it is their language option.

“However, we will not be dividing other classes based on race. It is very unfortunate that we had an isolated case which we have resolved and I can only state that we will never tolerate any form of racism at our schools,” said Van der Merwe.

The SAHRC was less forgiving, insisting it would press ahead with its investigations.

“We welcome the fact that the principal has apologised but this does not resolve the challenges of social integration which exist in our country. The vast majority of complaints we receive are based on racism at school and the workplace.

“While concerning ourselves with challenges in maths and science is important, we also need to be addressing issues of social cohesion and schools and parents have a huge role to play in this,” said chief executive Kayum Ahmed.

Sunday Tribune

Segregation row: principal says sorry