‘They’re treating our kids like dirt’ – Parents’ desperate call for human rights

In a desperate move to have rogue teachers removed from a troubled Eastern Cape primary school, disgruntled parents have requested help from the South African Human Rights Commission.

City Press learnt this week that parents of children at Bhisho Primary School asked the commission to force Eastern Cape education authorities to act on recommendations made by private investigators, who were hired by the same department to investigate the state of affairs at the school.

Eastern Cape education officials have yet to act on recommendations made by Rapid Response Investigators in April and a damning report has been gathering dust at the provincial headquarters in Zwelitsha for more than seven months.

Part of the investigators’ recommendations were that rogue teachers, who had caned and victimised minors, be removed from the school. The staff members whose removal was recommended included the school principal Velelo Kalipa because of his relationships with the “rogue” teachers.

It came to light this week that the Eastern Cape education authorities would only implement the recommendations of investigators if interventions led by former national intervention leader Ray Tywakadi – the deputy director-general for institutional operations management in the provincial education department – failed.

During the investigation, Kalipa was placed on special leave. City Press has learnt that he would return in January – which went against recommendations made by investigators.

Eastern Cape education spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said: “When meeting parents and the staff [Tywakadi] presented solutions to them that will best assist the school. One of them is the reconstruction of the school functionality [leading] to social cohesion where they will be able to work with one another. The second one was the implementation of the recommendation if there is a failure in the reconstruction of the school functionality.

“He requested some time for them to engage with these issues and when they are done call him so that they can engage for possibly labour peace and ultimately school functionality,” Mtima said.

However, investigators had stated in their damning report to the department that relations could not be salvaged and had been strained between Kalipa and his staff – so much so that a new principal should be appointed and the school needed a healing programme.

In a report seen by City Press, dated August this year, addressed to the human rights commission and which followed the investigation by Rapid Response, parents detailed how the school had deteriorated to an extent that there was no accountability instituted by government.

“This correspondence is a last resort to grab the attention of stakeholders to bring to its senses a department that creates more complex problems from simple issues needing decisive action – before we litigate. We are at pains trying to avoid this problem, we also see that the department would not dare to treat us like this if Bhisho Primary was an ex-Model C school. This behaviour is typical of a government that treats its own people and children like dirt. The recent [municipal] elections demonstrate our anger. The actions and events of the last four months and last year by the education department demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that it has no capacity to resolve this issue or any issue related to school functionality as evidenced by so many township schools that backslide and are dysfunctional,” parents wrote.

Parents said teachers had exhibited violent behaviour towards children over the years and there were no consequences for their actions.

“We need to understand what will be done to educators who abuse learners physically and emotionally,” parents stated.

The human rights commission’s provincial manager, Abongile Sipondo, said: “The department informed us that the report was completed and will be discussed with the parents, but they said it was confidential and could not give it to the commission at the time of release. We have been chasing the department to provide us with this report and details of what transpired from the meeting with the parents, with no success.”

Sipondo said the commission had assisted in resolving problems at the school in April by sending a letter to the department.

“After several chase-ups we received an update that the situation had normalised at the school and the principal was placed on special leave, the school’s school governing body had been dissolved, an administrator was appointed to attend to the operations of the school and an independent investigation team was appointed and will release a report,” Sipondo said, adding that the commission had been corresponding with both the department and parents.

Sipondo said the commission’s last correspondence to parents was last month, but they did not respond. “We will try to get the information from the complainants [parents] so that we see what steps to take as part of our complaints handling processes,” Sipondo said.


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July 2020

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