South Africa’s largest private education firm Curro Holdings said on Friday it would replace a school principal over racial segregation complaints after officials threatened to close the institution.
Curro, which raised R740 million ($61.10 million) last month to buy and expand its sprawling school network in a nation dogged by the poor quality of public education, also undertook to employ more black teachers.
Race in education remains an emotive issue in South Africa. Under white minority rule, which ended in 1994, blacks were relegated to sub-standard government schools designed to prepare them for little more than unskilled, manual labour.
Panyaza Lesufi, the head of education for the province of Gauteng, said in a statement he had given Curro until the end of October to implement changes to the school’s management and hire a consultant to advise on race issues or face closure.
Curro, whose share price has risen about seven-fold since listing in 2011, said the school head would be replaced by year end.
The school in question, located near the capital Pretoria, came under fire from parents and government officials after a video appeared to show learners being separated along racial lines on a field trip this month.
The school said it did not separate students based on race, and would ensure learners attending field trips would not in future be separated according to language or race.
In January, Curro was also forced to deny similar allegations at the same school after a group of around 30 parents signed a petition against what they said was racial segregation in classrooms.
The school is one of more than 40 run by Cape Town-based Curro, which has seen explosive growth since listing on the Johannesburg exchange in 2011, reflecting surging demand for private education from a growing black middle class.
South Africa’s public education is ranked among the worst in the world by the World Economic Forum, prompting many middle class parents to turn to private schools.
Curro’s shares closed down 0.91% at R33.58 on Friday, compared with the All Share Index that was down 0.35%.