Parents lock school gates in protest against new head

2019-07-12 14:44
Muzi Shelembe and Mlungisi Mbhense next to the locked gate of Julukandoda Primary School on Thursday.

Muzi Shelembe and Mlungisi Mbhense next to the locked gate of Julukandoda Primary School on Thursday. (Moeketsi Mamane)

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The community of KwaHasa, near Mpophomeni, have locked the gates of Julukandoda Primary as part of their protest against the appointment of a new principal over their preferred candidate.

No learning has taken place at the school since Wednesday when the Department of Education (DOE) came to introduce the new principal.

The parents locked everyone outside the school and demanded that their preferred candidate, Lucky Ngcobo, be appointed as principal instead.

Ngcobo has been acting as Julukandoda’s head since 2015.

When The Witness visited the school yesterday, teachers were sitting in their cars outside the premises as the gates remained locked. Pupils had been sent home for the second day in a row.

Members of the school governing body (SGB) said Ngcobo was one of the six people interviewed for the position on March 19. They said at the end of the day of the interviews they told the DOE’s resource official, who was sent by the department to oversee the process, that they wanted to exercise their power to make written recommendations on who should be appointed.

“The resource official told us that we had plenty of time to write the letter over the school holidays and he would not submit the interview scores and notes to the department until we gave him the letter.

“On April 6 he came to collect the letter of our recommendations for Ngcobo’s appointment and said he would be submitting the following day,” said one of the members.

They said they were all shocked when they later got a call from DOE’s circuit office telling them that their letter was late as the appointment letter had already been finalised for a candidate with the top score.

The DOE and SGB have since had several meetings to try and resolve the matter, to no avail.

“The department is trying to bully us into accepting an imposed appointee and it will be a cold day in hell before we do that,” said Gugu Sithole.

Member of the traditional council Nkosi Mvelase accused DOE of undermining the KwaHasa community.

“The department must tell us the truth about why they want to impose the new principal on us when the community has made it clear that we don’t want him.

“If Ngcobo didn’t qualify for the post then we would have backed down but he does and the SGB followed all the legal processes with regards to their recommendations,” he said.

Muzi Shelembe, who has three children enrolled at Julukandoda, said the community worked well with Ngcobo and his leadership made the school one of the best in the area.

“We’ve had no complaints about how he carries out his duties so we think it’s only fair that he is given the permanent post so that he can continue with the great work he’s been doing,” he said.

Ngcobo declined to comment, saying he was not authorised to speak to the media.

The SGB said they will send a letter to the MEC for Education, Kwazi Mshengu, and plead for his intervention.

Locking school gate 'illegal'

DOE spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said it was illegal for anyone, except the head of department Dr Enoch Nzama, to shut down any school in the province.

He said if the parents wanted to discuss their grievances over the appointments then they should write to Nzama, but they should not be the ones preventing their own children from learning.

“It’s really disappointing that parents would resort to such. I must add though that what they want us to do is unprocedural because they want us to reverse an appointment that was done legally, where all the processes were followed.”

He said acting in a position, no matter how long, did not mean the person was entitled to a permanent appointment. He said the only thing that Ngcobo had a right to was an automatic qualification for the interviews, but he still had to contest the position.

“The appointment was made based on who performed best in an interview that was conducted by the same SGB that is now saying they don’t want the person who got the top score,” he said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  school protest

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