Heathfield High community demands charges against principal be dropped
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Cape Town - Activists, parents and learners have once again come out to voice their support for Heathfield High School principal Wesley Neumann, who faces dismissal for defying an edict from the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).
The disciplinary charges against Neumann stem from his opposition to his school being reopened during the last year’s first Covid-19 lockdown.
On Tuesday, his supporters protested outside the WCED’s offices, demanding its new head of department (HOD), Brent Walters, drop all charges.
Neumann is facing six charges following his refusal to reopen the school amid the Covid-19 infection peak last year.
SA Democratic Teachers’ Union provincial chairperson Jonovan Rustin said the union has made a number of attempts to try to resolve the matter, without success.
Rustin said they believed the matter occurred during one of the most trying times in the country, and it could have been resolved around a table instead of instituting disciplinary action against Neumann.
“The union held a series of consultative meetings with Neumann and the WCED on this issue, but despite our efforts the department moved forward with disciplinary action, rather than addressing it in a way that encourages labour harmony and is beneficial to education,” said Rustin.
Heathfield High School governing body chairperson Vasoula Bailey said they demanded that a commission of inquiry, inclusive of members of civil society, investigate the alleged repressive culture within the bureaucracy of the WCED, with the aim of transforming it to a culture where better interpersonal relationships were engendered.
ANC provincial spokesperson on education Khalid Sayed said Neumann, like the principals of yesteryear, stood with his community, learners and teachers.
Sayed said Neumann was being persecuted, just as the apartheid government persecuted teachers, for standing up to an education department that thinks nothing of the lives of poor and working class people.
“We salute him and stand by him in his quest for fairness, justice and equality in education for all our children,” said Sayed.
WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the charges that have been brought against Neumann were being contemplated in a hearing where Neumann was being given a fair opportunity to answer them.
“The legal process must be allowed to continue unhindered by any party,” said Hammond.
The memorandum brought by the protesters was accepted by the WCED’s chief director of districts, Alan Meyer, who said normal procedures would apply to the memorandum.
“I will take them to the HOD, and the HOD will compile a team to work through all the requests that are in here, and we will respond to the parties,” said Meyer.
SA Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union general secretary André Kriel, who was among the protesters, offered to help play a facilitating role in an attempt to bring the matter to a better conclusion, “instead of the serious disruptive effects that insisting on disciplinary processes currently has and have had for an extended period now”.