Odette Jones is one of 100 staff members who have been left in the lurch by the planned closing down of the Bishop Bavin School in Bedfordview, Gauteng.
The school is housed in a building belonging to the Anglican Church’s Diocese of Johannesburg and made the news this week when teachers protested management’s decision to close it down.
Staff, through their legal representative Leslie Sedibe, plan to approach the labour court to challenge the termination of their employment.
City Press understands that attempts have been made to try to save the school, which include discussions with the Gauteng education department this week.
City Press also understands that the department decided to pull out of the negotiations with the school because its board allegedly kept on shifting goal posts and wanted the department to commit more than R30 million of taxpayers’ money without any guarantees from the school.
The board also was allegedly adamant that there was no crisis, because plans had already been made to relocate pupils to other schools.
However, sources have alleged that these were “lies” and that this had not been communicated to staff in a letter sent on Friday by the executive head of school, Roger Cameron, announcing the dissolution of the school.
In the letter, Cameron said the school was a registered not-for-profit organisation with its own board and administration.
He said the Anglican Church owned the land and buildings of the schools and therefore was its landlord.
“The school approached the church to render financial support to it, a request the church acceded to. In addition to this the church actively worked with the school to find a suitable partner to operate the school and turn it around.
"The latter effort did not yield any success for a number of reasons. The church recently received a notice of intention for its liquidation at the instance of one of the creditors of the school, in respect of an indemnity the church had issued some years ago for the school to receive financial assistance.
"It is common cause that the school has incurred huge financial losses and is not able to meet its obligations,” read Cameron’s letter.
“We therefore advise that in view of the above, the board of governors of Bishop Bavin, by way of special unanimous resolution, voted to dissolve the business of Bishop Bavin School with immediate effect on June 10 2020.
"In terms of the Constitution, this decision had to be confirmed by the trustees of the Diocese of Johannesburg, which confirmation was received on June 11 2020, making this the effective date of dissolution.
"The reasons for the dissolution are set out in the letter from the Bishop of Johannesburg (Dr Steve Moreo), dated June 11 2020.”
City Press has seen the letter from Moreo, in which he said the school would not be in a position to open its doors for the rest of the academic year.
In the June 11 letter, Moreo announced that the school required a capital injection of approximately R25 million from an angel investor who would require no return.
The school had a projected income of only R2 million.
Jones (47), who has been involved at the school for eight years as a teacher and a parent, and who has served on a parental structure, told City Press that she was shocked that the church had been economical with the truth by saying it was nothing but a landlord following the events that led to the decision to close it down.
“Why would you as a landlord have an individual sit on the board of the school for 14 years? Why would said individual have an employee code at the school and now the diocese claims it was unaware of what was happening?
"I wrote a personal email to the bishop himself. The diocese fired the board and instituted its own board, nullifying its landlord status. It sent a letter to staff and parents saying the school will run until December. It spent R100 000 getting the school Covid-19 coronavirus compliant,” Jones said.
Sedibe confirmed that he had written to the school management and given them a deadline of Friday 4pm to respond.
He said since no response had been received, it paved the way to go the labour court.
“We confirm that we are in the process of consulting the parents and their children and we similarly hold instructions to represent their interests, particularly the interests of the children, who feel their constitutional right to education [had been violated]. We will give clear directions based on the outcome of our discussions with the parents as soon as we are in a position to do so,” he said.
Gauteng education spokesperson Steve Mabona confirmed that departmental officials had visited the school.
“The decision was taken that pupils will be accommodated at neighbouring schools,” Mabona said.