Parents waiting for action

2008-06-02 00:00

Ten months after sending a dossier to the KZN Education Department containing allegations of corruption and mismanagement — with documentary evidence — against the principal of a midlands school, a group of concerned parents are furious that no action has been taken.

They say they are fobbed off month after month with the same response: that “the matter is being investigated”. But a parent has questioned this, saying no one has visited the school.

He said that despite the dossier containing contact details, neither the parents nor teachers have been contacted, nor have documents from the school been secured.

The parents claim that the principal continues to act with impunity and has intimidated witnesses. They believe that vital documents could have been lost.

The parent said the dossier includes allegations of fraudulent activities in the school, to the tune of over R1 million, including defrauding the school’s feeding scheme.

The dossier was sent to the district office and when there was no response, it was sent to Education MEC Ina Cronje and her HoD Cassius Lubisi. They received written acknowledgement of their complaint, but since then regular inquiries have been met with the response that the matter is under investigation.

The Witness contacted the department in May, nine months after they received the dossier. The response: “The allegations are being investigated by Internal Risk Control. These investigations are still in progress. We are not at this stage at liberty to divulge specifics with regards to this matter …”

The Witness wrote back, asking how the matter could be under investigation when no investigator has visited the school or questioned complainants or witnesses. More than two weeks later, the department’s Internal Risk Control Unit has not answered this question.

The parents took their complaint to the SA Council of Educators (Sace), which sent an investigator to the school. They allege that soon after this visit, the principal started intimidating witnesses — and contacted them asking to negotiate.

Sace CEO Reg Brijraj confirmed that they carried out an investigation at the school. He said the report is ready and will be going to the body’s ethics committee and council, which will decide what action, if any, will be taken against the principal.

Only after the SACE have dealt with the report will the outcome be relayed to the concerned parents.

Dossier: the allegations

• Defrauding the school feeding scheme by inflating the number of pupils getting fed, resulting in receiving from government about four times the amount of money that was actually needed to feed the children. The complainants told the Education Department they had claim forms and affidavits from parents and police, which would be provided once investigations began. The department has not asked for this information.

• Manipulation of the school finances. The dossier names witnesses who are prepared to speak about this. No one has been questioned by the department.

• The school is in the midlands, yet all purchases (uniforms, tracksuits, paint, carpentry material, even toilet cleaner) are made in the coastal town where the principal resides. It is alleged that the suppliers are either close friends or relatives of the principal. The complainants say they have proof that all these items can be bought much cheaper in the midlands. In addition, the principal allegedly instituted a transport allowance of R2,60 per kilometre, which he pays to himself to transport the goods from the coast to the school.

• Textbooks and stationery are also bought from a coastal town and from a bookshop owned by a relative of the principal.

• An inappropriate relationship between the principal and a married female member of staff who is often absent from her classroom and in the principal’s office. The result is that pupils’ work is suffering and parents are asking questions.

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