Durban: A race row has broken out in South Africa after Indian-origin students took eight of the top ten positions in the matriculation results in KwaZulu-Natal, a province where two-third of country's Indian population live.
After the top students were announced by the provincial education authorities, allegations of the Indian students having been favoured began surfacing on social media, but were dismissed by leading academicians.
Comments on Facebook which were labelled as "racist" by many included one which read: "Black teachers please do some thing for a true indigenous black child (not) one that originates far from the east (sic)."
Another message said Indian students also performed better at university level: "the majority of students who graduated were Indians, (this) needs to be investigated."
Several more messages of a similar nature were countered by one which said: "Could it be that Indians have inculcated a culture of learning which we have not? We need to be honest with ourselves and stop pointing fingers. Well done to them."
Although about two-third of South Africa's Indian-origin population lives in KwaZulu-Natal province, they make up only 9.4 per cent of the total population of the province, where 82 per cent are indigenous Africans. The Indian community in South Africa has a literacy rate of 100 per cent.
Professor Labby Ramrathan of the School of Education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal said: "Over many years Indians have featured quite prominently among the top performers."
"Traditionally there is a focus on education by Indian parents who feel it is a way to prosperity, so they invest a lot in the educational needs of their children," Ramrathan told the weekly Post, which highlighted the achievements of the top Indian students in a special edition.
"Secondly, there is a realisation that if (Indian) students don't perform well, it is unlikely they will get into the course they want (at university), perhaps due to the quota system, so this prompts them to work harder to be at the top of their game," Ramrathan said.
There has been great discontent within the Indian community in recent years about alleged sidelining of highly-qualified graduates in favour of Black African applicants for jobs under the quota scheme, despite Indians also having been discriminated against during the apartheid era.
Historians have written extensively about how the first Indian migrants in 1860, who arrived to sugarcane farm as labourers, and their descendants placed a huge premium on education to better the lives of future generations, contributing towards building their own schools.