Battle lines drawn at Kenmont School

2014-03-07 00:00

OCCUPATIONAL therapists at Kenmont School could withdraw their services if the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education does not intervene at the school.

This special needs school situated in the Bluff area, caters for about 500 pupils with different disabilities, from auditory to physically challenged.

But these children could be robbed of the treatment vital to their development and, in some cases, recovery, due to an apparent relationship meltdown between the 18 therapists and the school’s principal.

A therapist, whose name is known to The Witness, has written a letter to the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) expressing her unhappiness about the principal.

The therapist said that the environment at the school had become hostile and that “it is the learner who is the loser in all this”.

Therapists have also accused the principal of ensuring that they have no contact with other teachers or the multi-disciplinary team members regarding the progress of pupils.

They also claim the administration of medication, which had been the responsibility of teachers for over 20 years, has since been shifted to the therapists.

According to the letter, the reason for this, given “to the speech therapy HOD was that seeing as we are now being paid more due to occupational specific dispensation we need to be given more work”.

Cameras have recently been installed inside the therapy rooms without consultation with the therapists who consider this an invasion of privacy.

“It disturbs me that the principal is constantly watching us on those cameras. I feel that I am no longer able to work efficiently as I feel someone is looking over my shoulder all the time. I feel like therapy is ‘put’ on and not a relaxed, comfortable environment for me or the learner. Once again the learner loses out,” she added.

The therapist also claims the principal swears openly at her.

This therapist said she had to see a doctor for help regarding stress-related illnesses, such as headaches, anxiety and stomach issues and said her colleagues also feel stressed.

“We are not perfect, we have our faults but we don’t deserve to be treated this way. We need a working environment that allows us to give off our best as therapists as it is ultimately the children who lose out when we cannot perform at our best,” she concluded.

KZN Naptosa CEO Anthony Pierce said they have reached deadlock in negotiations with the school management and he said resolution of the grievances at the school needs to be initiated by the department.

“The department should do an investigation and have recommendation,” he said. He fears that the therapists will stop working if the department does not respond to their concerns.

The department’s spokesperson Sihle Mlotshwa said they will be investigating the allegation.

In 2012, the father of an 18-year-old pupil, Devarajh Moodley, won a case against Kenmont School at the Durban high court for his son Remano to be readmitted to a normal classroom after his son was isolated from the rest of his peers and forced to take lessons alone in a separate building for two years.

The school had argued that the teenager was a danger to other pupils and teachers.

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