Staff protest return of suspended principal

2018-02-16 06:00

STAFF at Harding Secondary School have been on a go-slow for two weeks due to the return of the school principal who was suspended.

Principal Terrence Lawrence was suspended in September last year facing various charges and when he returned to work last Monday, the staff refused to work with him.

According to the charge sheet, Lawrence was charged with four counts of misconduct. It was alleged that Lawrence made personal purchases using the Harding Secondary Hostel account, fraudulently reconnected the school’s Telkom landline for personal use, arbitrarily increased the hostel fees and imposed an unlawful admission fee and finally, refused to teach at the school.

Lawrence joined the school as school principal and hostel boarding master in December 2016. By March 2017, the department had made its first visit to the school to investigate Lawrence’s conduct following complaints by staff members and the school governing body. Investigations continued until August 2017, when staff members downed tools and demanded the removal of Lawrence from office pending his charges. Following the protest, Lawrence was suspended until Monday January 22, when communication was received from the office of the district director’s office that Lawrence would be resuming his duties.

Upon his return, displeased staff members refused to work with him and by Tuesday he had regressed. A meeting was scheduled at the school with district director Mfundi Sibiya. However, he did not attend.

The staff then opened a criminal case which is still pending with the Harding police against Lawrence and through written communication informed the district director’s office that the matter would be escalated to the MEC’s office.

Staff members from the school who asked to remain anonymous said Lawrence had made it difficult to work with him.

“From the onset he was an unpleasant person to work with. We had numerous complaints of ill-treatment from staff. We’ve also had several people resign since he started,” said the staff member.

“I could cite a long list of incidents where he behaved in a questionable manner. We have even had parents who claimed they paid fees to him but those fees never reach the school’s account. The list is endless really and we have supporting evidence for all these claims so we are willing to take it to the highest court,” she said.

The staff have also gathered the support of the community, including the Islamic Association.

Department of Education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said Lawrence would not have returned to the school without charges against him being cleared.

“When the department suspends someone it is usually done in order to investigate the allegations formed against him and when that person’s name has been cleared, they are informed that they can inform to work. This has been the case at Harding Secondary.

“As the department, we therefore urge the staff at the school to behave accordingly and cooperate with the school principal because he did not return to the school out of his own accord but at the instruction of the department,” said Mahlambi.

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