With just days to go before schools close, popular Umbumbulu principal Premilla Deonath, has been told to report for duty after her four-month “precautionary suspension” was lifted.
While pupils, teachers and parents at the top-performing Khulabebuka High School celebrated over her return, Deonath said she was confused by the new instruction, especially because the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education had not finalised its disciplinary inquiry in respect of serious charges levelled against, which she has denied.
She was suspended in July after allegations of mismanagement, maladministration and incitement of parents and the community.
The letter informing her of the lifting of her suspension was signed by department head Nkosinathi Sishi, on October 29, but was sent to her only on Monday, two days after a schools district official had called and instructed her to report to the Umbumbulu circuit office this week.
“I was excited but confused at the same time because it is dated October and I only received it now,” she said. “I don’t know where it has been.”
While Deonath has been reinstated, she is expected to continue attending the disciplinary hearing
, which had been postponed until January 22.
Deonath said she had attended the hearing on November 22 and 23, but no mention was made of her suspension being lifted.
“Since the beginning of the suspension, I have said I am 100 percent innocent. I have nothing to hide,” she said in a tearful interview
She blamed her predicament on internal squabbles at school. “It was internal politics, which I feel that my children should not have been dragged into, but now that I am back, everything will return to normal.”
Deonath’s forced absence had been felt at the school, where classes were disrupted for about a month as pupils, parents and school governing body (SGB) members protested against the suspension.
Despite the staff challenges at the school, it managed a 100 percent matric pass rate last year.
Deonath was welcomed back yesterday by cheering, singing and ululating crowds, and the blowing of vuvuzelas.
“This is such a surprise and the community is excited about her return,” said SGB secretary Ncamisile Ngcobo.
S’gananda Ngubane, the SGB deputy chairman, described Deonath as a hard-working principal and said she had adapted well as an Indian stationed in a historically black community.
“She doesn’t treat herself any different from us. There are no racial lines… she is one of us,” he said. “The community suffered emotionally when she was removed.”
Teacher Mandla Dlamini said the school was poorly managed in her absence.
“Now that Deonath is back, it means that the school would have a strong management team, teaching and learning would continue and the school operations would run smoothly,” he said.
Department spokesman Muzi Mahlambi, said the team of investigators looking into the allegations against Deonath had recommended that she resume her duties.
“She has been allowed to go back to work while the investigation continues,” he said. - Daily News