The photo, taken by a teacher, shows a group of 18 white pupils with a small table of the class’s handful of black pupils sitting behind at the back of the class tucked away in the corner.
The image, taken at Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke kindergarten in the north west of the country, was shared on the school’s WhatsApp group by the children’s class teacher.
It was then shared to all the children’s parents to show them how their first day at school was going.
The image of the children, who are all aged between four and five, echoed South Africa’s dark Apartheid past of racial segregation and oppression.
A mother of one of the black pupils, who was not named, told TimesLIVE: ‘This was meant to be an exciting day for me but it’s not. I am pi**** off.
‘All I saw was messages from the white parents saying ‘dankie, dankie’ [thank you on WhatsApp] but no one was saying anything about the separation of the learners.’
The photo has gone viral on social media and has seen the school criticised for allowing apparent segregation to take place.
Activist and ANC campaign manager, Mcebo Dlamini, wrote today on Facebook: ‘What is most provoking about this image is not that black kids are ostracised from white kids, that is common in our supposedly post apartheid Africa.
‘Rather what becomes painful is that there are black people who still insist that racism has ended and who think that blacks and white can have peaceful relations that do not have undertones of racism.
‘This is impossible so long as white people have power, what therefore is needed is to change the existing power dynamics such that black people can have dignity.
‘You can take your kids to the whitest schools in the country but so long as the black majority is poor, your kids will always be reminded that they are black and therefore inferior.’
The school has not responded to requests from the local media for comment.