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If you’re a mom whose kid is three turning four then you may have been through the Grade R application process, but if your kid is four turning five then you know ALL about the ‘interview process’ which is the most gruelling part of this journey. The subtle and not-so-subtle vying for a spot for your kid can bring out all of the stress and all of the ugly in any ‘prospective parent’. It’s tough out there! Everyone just wants the best for their kid.

I’m a white Southern Suburbs mom of a black son who is ready for big school next year and we want the best for him. I don’t want to make too big of a deal of it, but it is kind of a big deal and choosing a school has been one of the hardest decisions in my life so far. My husband and I want Ilan to go to a great school so that he can get a great education that will expose him to opportunity in life, but we also want him to go to a school that is diverse with diversity reflected in the school body as well as the staff room. Sadly you can’t have your cake and eat it at many schools here in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town and I blame apartheid.

I hate apartheid and what it has done and is still doing to our country. I absolutely hate the geographical segregation which still contrasts Cape Town and other South African cities today and that this means that real diversity at most schools is so slow to come into effect due to small specified ‘catchment areas’.

I feel so strongly that all schools need to address diversity as a priority and make sincere and active efforts to extend openings to black families for their young black kids. A Grade R with a handful of black kids is just not good enough – regardless of how many black kids applied for a position, live in the area or can afford the fees. It’s not good enough that black or coloured children at some schools may feel the ‘odd one out’ and it is equally not good enough that white kids aren’t given the opportunity to grow important friendships with kids who don’t look like them either. This isn’t just an issue for Moms of black kids, it’s an issue for ALL Moms.

Anyway, back to the acceptance forms and the crying. My husband and I have walked such a journey trying to decide what school will be the best fit for our family and have had some meaningful conversations about diversity and transformation with the principals of three schools in our area. Deep down, we both knew that we would probably still go with our first choice school if Ilan was accepted there but it took us until the very last day for us to hand in our acceptance forms. I cried when we completed the acceptance forms because it felt like such a heavy decision to accept our school of choice as the dream of all schools representing complete integrated diversity is still just a dream.

I feel so much better now that we’ve made our school decision but now it’s time to have those difficult chats about why it is so important to see colour at schools, even if the kids are all united behind the same school badge. I’m inspired by a quote from recent blog post that I read about investing in your schools, ‘Use your privilege to push for diversity (both in student bodies and in teaching staff) and equality for kids of colour at your children’s school. As a white parent, you have a lot of power. Stand up and say something if you see racism happening. Ask the school to recruit more Black teachers.’ (https://myrealkid.com)

Let’s rally together and do something to shake things up at our schools!

*Note: This post is my opinion only, I don’t claim to know all the facts or have all the answers but I’m keen to get talking about this more. I also know that this is a complex issue and that schools are bound by regulations set by the Education Department to a certain degree but my heart is to see change in our childrens’ lifetimes.

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15 comments on “Why I cried when my son got into our Grade R school of choice”

  1. I’m so glad our boys are going to be in the same school! Lets hope our sons make history together and begin to be the change. I love how Noah talks about his friend Ilan.. down to his “beautiful brown skin” and “cool hair”. You are doing a fabulous job my Heart Mama Friend and i know your boy will be a reflection of that!

  2. I love this post
    thank you for being brave enough to write this
    we are also going through the grade r application process for my daughter
    best of luck

  3. I’m so happy that I found the French school. It’s a great mix of Africa and Europe, like me and my daughter. Without the boxes of white, coloured and black. Teachers and kids from Congo Mauritius SA France etc. And Rosie already speaks 3 languages. I was very nervous about sending her to a South African school because of obvious reasons. Private or public, both didn’t appeal to me. We lI’ve in Green point so not much choice either. ..

  4. Thank you for writing this blog post. Walking the same road and this was a major deciding factor in choosing the right school for our children.

    • It’s such a tough one hey. I’d love to chat more about your journey if you have a moment to inbox me?

  5. I have had the exact same problem. For my daughter to be in the best school that we can afford (which is 60m from my house), we have sacrificed diversity and I’m still not sure it’s the right decision. She is one of only two Black children, and one of about 6 non-white children, out of 7 classes of 25+ children in her grade. The nearest public school with a racial mix closer to the population demographic is 30min drive away. Our only other options are schools that are even less diverse, or a private school which we can’t afford. And it’s not something that there’s an easy solution to (short of moving house)

    • Man, that’s not easy. Our plan is do what we can to help diversity grow at the school we’ve chosen and to be extra intentional about exposing our kids to diversity in other spheres.

  6. Im happy for you and know what you went through. Unfortunately my lil girl was not as lucky and we did not get in 🙁 she still cries because thats where she wants to go. As a mum i feel completely hopeless

  7. Such a good article and so true. Nothing much has changed and having hopes and dreams for your kid when schools dismiss you for living in the “wrong areas”. it’s a hard issue.

  8. I agree with you Julie, but i no longer blame apartheid. Apartheid started the separation, white privilege and lack of proactive inclusiveness in Cape Tow has 20 years on perpetuated it. It is a primary reason for me not wanting to return back to Cape Town, as beautiful as it is. JHB is 20 years ahead of Cape Town. I refuse to let my boys be a minority in their own country.

  9. We have a long way to go, but with parents that continue to think like you and want to contribute to an open-minded, fair and diverse society, I have so much hope that we’ll get there. Congrats to Ilan for getting in 🙂

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