KwaZulu-Natal - Provincial education boss Nkosinathi Sishi has threatened to shut a top-performing uMbumbulu school that has not had classes for almost three weeks since the suspension of its principal.
Khulabebuka High School principal, Premilla Deonath, was suspended last month pending the outcome of an investigation into alleged mismanagement, maladministration and incitement of parents and the community.
Deonath has denied the allegations.
Sishi visited the school on Wednesday after receiving a report from the uMlazi education district office that teaching and learning had been halted by supporters of the principal.
He gave the school governing body (SGB) and parents a deadline to make sure that classes resumed.
“By Monday, if there are no classes running at the school, I am shutting it down and will involve police to criminally charge those individuals who have caused the disruptions,” he said in an interview soon after visiting the school.
There have been tensions at the school since Deonath’s suspension, with many stakeholders calling for her return.
Sishi, the superintendent-general of the KZN Department of Education, said there had been no pupils to be seen when he went to the school. He told the SGB and parents that they should meet this weekend to get the school back on track.
“Teaching and learning are sacrosanct, all other issues will follow once classes have resumed,” he said. “If they fail to solve their problems, I will have to make a plan for affected pupils to be transported to other schools.”
Governing body chairman, Mkhithikelo Buthelezi, said classes would resume on Monday.
“There is a meeting tomorrow for parents, community members and governing body members,” he said.
Sishi said he had seen the report on the allegations against the principal.
“The procedure now is charging [Deonath] officially in a disciplinary hearing. An independent tribunal will interrogate her,” he said. “If she is found not guilty, she will return to the school, but if she is found guilty, she will be expelled.”
The allegations surfaced when four maths and science teachers, who had been declared surplus to the rural school’s requirements, had complained to education district officials about Deonath.
They have since been placed at other schools after they were allegedly intimidated when word got out to the community that they had accused the principal of wrongdoing.
Deonath’s letter of suspension had to be served by a sheriff of the court at her home on July 23, allegedly because education officials were too scared to go to the school.
Deonath said yesterday that she had not received any feedback from the department about the investigation.
“The department has failed me when I am 100 percent innocent,” she said. “There were allegations made against the teachers but nothing was done to them, but I am suspended for doing nothing wrong.
In 2008, Deonath was recognised in the Standard Bank Salutes Women of KZN campaign for raising funds through sponsorships for the building of the school, and for ensuring an environment that was caring and conducive to learning and teaching.
But Khulabebuka High did not have maths and science teachers for almost a year, until three months ago.
Four teachers had been kicked out of the school by parents last year for absenteeism, and for allegedly making racial remarks directed at Deonath.
Despite the staff challenges at Khulabebuka High, the school managed a 100 percent matric pass rate last year. - Daily News