Curro was once again plunged into the spotlight at the weekend, after the Mail & Guardian blew the lid on “racist labour practices” allegedly taking place at its Waterfall Primary pre-school that have subsequently led to the resignation of three black teachers in recent months.
Among some of the major allegations by staff and parents is that there is a vast discrepancy between the salaries of white and black employees, with one teacher alleging white teachers were getting promotions over black ones, despite their white counterparts being less qualified.
Staff claim that all teachers’ assistants at the school are black and before parents complained, the assistants were being separated from white teachers in so far as staff rooms were concerned, with one for the assistants and a second for white teachers.
“All the blacks were teaching assistants and all the whites were teachers. We were told that one staff room is for teachers and the other is for the assistants. I couldn’t go into the teachers’ staff room. I just felt uncomfortable,” one black teacher was quoted telling the newspaper.
Even after her promotion from assistant to teacher, she dared not sit in the teachers’ staff room because “they would all just stop and look at you”.
“We were three black teachers. We continued to use the assistants’ staff room because we could feel like we belonged there.”
This practice reportedly changed once parents got wind of what was happening.
Another staff member also claimed that children were instructed not to refer to black staff members as teachers.
This is not the first time the Curro group has landed in hot water over issues of racism.
In January 2015, it was revealed that the group’s Roodeplaat school segregated pupils according to their race.
At the time Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi wanted the school’s licence to be revoked, but he gave them a second chance and committed to working with the school to address the problems.
But less than six months later, the same school was once again the subject of news headlines after it was discovered that Grade R learners on a school outing were separated into two buses – one for black learners and the other for white kids.
The school’s take on this incident was that the kids were in fact separated according to language spoken and not race, saying the Afrikaans-speaking learners were bundled in one bus and English-speaking children were placed in the other vehicle.
Curro is again denying this latest racial incident, saying the claims are “factually erroneous”.
Curro Stakeholder Engagement Officer Joy Smith told News24 on Saturday that an independent investigation was conducted and the report “refutes the allegation that there are salary discrepancies due to the race of staff members”.
She, however, refused to comment further when questions were asked around when the investigation had taken place or how many people were involved.
She explained that teachers and assistant teachers had different lunch-break schedules and this was why they congregate in the staff rooms at different times.
“Curro does not tolerate any discriminatory practices, such as racism, in terms of its internal policies. Immediate action will be taken against any individual guilty of such practices,” she said.