Parents force school closure

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THE MERCURY

Pamela Gumede, a parent, protests at Umkhumbane Secondary School in Chesterville. Picture: JACQUES NAUDE

Durban - Parents at controversial Umkhumbane Secondary School in Chesterville have brought all teaching at the school to a halt – protesting against the reinstatement of 12 teachers and a clerk and calling for the suspension of their principal to be revoked.

On Wednesday, parents and pupils protested at the school, repeating their demands.

Last year, three of the teachers were accused of sexual misconduct with pupils. Nine others, and a clerk, were targeted for pledging solidarity with them.

Last week, the Durban High Court granted an interim order to have the Department of Education reinstate the teachers “with immediate effect”.

There was chaos on Monday when the 12 teachers were pelted with stones as they reported for work.

The principal, Ntokozo Ngobese, was suspended later that same day for allegedly bringing the department “into disrepute”.

The school’s governing body was also disbanded.

But parents and pupils vowed to keep gates closed until Ngobese’s suspension was rescinded. They also accused the court of being biased towards the department in its ruling.

Department spokesman Muzi Mahlambi said: “It’s very difficult to deal with a situation that is deliberate, and (where there is) a resolute agenda to cause chaos.

“No matter what effort you put in, it won't work.”

The Durban South branch secretary of the SA Democratic Teachers Union, Sibongiseni Xulu, said the union believed the school’s governing body should allow “internal disciplinary processes” to unfold to test whether the allegations were valid.

“This was never the case… the governing body said they didn’t want the teachers at the school – and we can’t operate like that. They (teachers) must be given a fair hearing,” he said.

After the court ruling, he said, the principal was given “a clear instruction” that teachers must return to school and that there be no incitement of the community.

Lessons were disrupted again on Wednesday as parents continued to demand Ngobese’s reinstatement. Twenty-two teachers were forced to report to their Umlazi district office as they were denied access to the school.

A parent, Pamela Gumede, said Ngobese was not to blame for the teachers’ being chased away.

“We want him back. It was us who said we don’t want these people here – not him. They can’t come back here, they won’t,” she said.

Parents commended Ngobese for turning around the school’s fortunes, saying the pass rate had improved dramatically.

sihle.manda@inl.co.za

The Mercury


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