Teacher Accused Of Racism Reinstated In South Africa
The Johannesburg Labour Court on Thursday reinstated a South African primary school teacher who was suspended after photographing black children sitting separately from white children in her class.
Judge Justice Prinsloo ordered Elana Barkhuizen to return to work “with immediate effect”, dismissing her suspension by the North West education department as “unlawful”.
She was suspended on January 10 from her job at Schweizer-Reneke school after a photo she took of ‘segregated’ children went viral.
Prinsloo said the school’s governing body and the provincial education department had to allow her to “return to work and resume her normal duties with effect from January 25”.
The photo she took showed about 17 white children sitting around a large table, with four black children sat at a small corner table in the background.
The Solidarity trade union, which is mainly made up of white Afrikaners, said Barkhuizen was a victim of political opportunism.
It said she was only supervising the class while the actual teacher, who was not suspended, was with a parent.
The union had previously argued that the children were seated by language, not race.
“The children were seated like that only for a short period of time, to make them comfortable,” Anton van der Bijl, Solidarity’s head of labour law, told AFP.
After the ruling, Solidarity referred all questions on the children’s seating arrangements to the teacher in charge of the classroom in question.
Race relations remain tense in South Africa 25 years after the end of white-minority apartheid rule, with racist controversies regularly erupting on social media and within politics.