Popular South African private school accused of 'segregation' in new race row

Curro is one of South Africa's largest private school providers with over 40 schools across the country

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The Independent Online

An investigation has been launched into one of South Africa’s biggest private school providers after it was accused of running a policy that segregated black and white children.

South African educational authorities announced that they would be looking into Curro Foundation School in Roodeplaat, Pretoria, after a group of black parents put their names to a petition complaining that the school was separating children along racial lines.

According to the 30 signatories, they were unhappy that races were being segregated and said that the school’s policy was a step back towards apartheid.

Following the complaints, parallel investigations have been launched by the region’s education ministry and the country’s chief Human Rights commission.

After visiting the school on Monday, Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, told local press that he believed the school had become “racially segregated” after giving in to the demands of white parents.

He said: "The majority of parents are predominantly white and they wanted to pull their children out of the school. The institution gave in to the pressure and I told them that it’s racist."

The school however, has refuted these claims, saying that they are against segregation and they had only ever separated children due to language differences.

Reacting to the claims, Chris van der Merwe, Curro’s chief executive, told local media: "This is not so simple as referring to a policy of segregation. Just to remind the folks and supporters that we don't stand for segregation, not at all."

Van der Merwe said that the seeming segregation based on race could be attributed to white parents often wanting their children to learn Afrikaans, an unpopular language choice with the parents of the school’s 24,000 black students.

He did admit that in some year-groups with a small number of white children, white children were often kept together to ensure they could make friends with their own “culture” but once there was enough white pupils in a year, they were then divided between other classes.

Private education company Curro has seen a marked rise in popularity over recent times, as the demand for private school places continues to grow in a country that has one worst public school systems in the world.

It now has over 40 different schools and nurseries across South Africa and last year saw its shares rise seven-fold.

Additional reporting by agencies