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Row over school principal

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“The questions came straight from the department, which is unusual. We did not make any recommendations either”

ACCUSATIONS of nepotism have been flung around following the appointment of a new principal at Assmang Primary School in the Tsantsabane Local Municipality.

Disgruntled members of the community have pointed out that the new principal of the school is the wife of the district circuit manager for the ZF Mgcawu District.

The community, teachers, some of the prospective candidates as well as different political parties such as the EFF, Save Tsantsabane Coalition (STC) and the ANC, submitted a dispute to the Northern Cape Department of Education in November after detecting alleged irregularities around the interview process for the school principal post.

They argue that there were stronger candidates who applied for the post, and have also called for a disciplinary inquiry into the conduct of the district circuit manager.

According to them, influential top officials at the Northern Cape Department of Education manipulated the situation by working with the previous school governing body (SGB) to make the district circuit manager’s wife the preferred candidate.

“The timing of the appointment was just too perfect. That is because her husband is the Department of Education’s boss in her district.

“The woman was a teacher at Ratang Thuto High school before she took a voluntary severance package in 2016 and stayed unemployed for the whole of 2017. In 2018 she started teaching at Assmang Primary at post level 1. During this time, the school principal went on pension.

“When she started at Assmang there was already a temporary teacher at that school, but the school appointed her permanently within three months. The post for a principal was then advertised in 2019, and several suitably qualified candidates applied but she got the post,” Michael Mabilo, from STC, stated.

According to the SGB chairperson, Abraham Pieterson, the SGB did not choose the members of the interview panel and neither did they produce the list of questions for the interview.

“The questions came straight from the department, which is unusual. We did not make any recommendations either,” explained Abraham.

They plan to escalate the matter to the Office of the Public Protector and to march to the school to demand that the decision be reversed. This follows their failed attempt to prevent the introduction and acknowledgement of the candidate as the school principal when schools reopened on Wednesday last week.

Parents apparently disrupted the school assembly after they refused to accept the announcement of the new principal.

According to the complainants, they submitted a dispute at the department in November 2019 but nobody had contacted them in this regard.

“Nothing regarding this appointment makes sense. It is clear that there was nepotism and the department should have stopped the process immediately when it was realised that there were disputes. Instead they kept the dispute quiet and went ahead with the appointment.”

The SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) has also called for the appointment to be reversed and the process to be re-run by the provincial department and not the district.

According to Sadtu provincial chairperson Senzo Mpalala, given the allegations and how the process unfolded, the successful candidate knew that the post was being created for her as an elevation when she joined Assmang Primary School.

Sadtu also noted that they were informed that a woman from the department was allegedly mandated by the candidate’s husband to run the interview process.

“This is nepotism at its highest degree. These allegations have substance; the process was flawed. We feel that was not an honest delegation. The husband should have excused himself from the process completely instead of sending a delegate to run it his way.

“We also do not believe that the principal should work in that kind of environment.”

Mpalala said it was not too late for the process to be reversed even though the appointment is said to have been made already.

“Both of the candidates are our members but we believe in a free and fair process.

“We have requested the regional office for updates on the matter in order for us to take it up with the provincial department,” added Mpalala. The Northern Department of Education confirmed that it had received complaints about nepotism at Assmang Primary School.

According to the department, it is in possession of all the documents that confirms the recommendation by the SGB of Assmang Primary School for the appointment of the principal.

Department spokesperson Geoffrey van der Merwe elaborated that the appointment of a principal is solely the responsibility of the Head of the Department and the SGBs could only make a recommendation.

“In this case, the Head of the Department agreed with the recommendation of the SGB,” said Van der Merwe.

“We can assure the general public, school community and concerned parents that all due processes were completed in line with the South African Schools Act (SASA) 84 of 1996, Employment of Educators Act 76 of 1998 and Personnel Administrative Measures (PAM).

“The successful candidate met the qualifying criteria for the post as principal with the requisite qualifications, skills, knowledge and expertise,” concluded Van der Merwe.