Cape Town - The principal of Noluthando School for the Deaf in Khayelitsha is on medical leave for the remainder of the term amid protests by learners and staff calling for the principal’s removal from the school.
The special needs school saw disruptions to its teaching and learning programme last week, as several staff claimed that a myriad serious grievances against the principal and other senior staff members raised with the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) were not being addressed.
The group of teachers had written a petition letter in March, calling for immediate action to be taken over what they have referred to as long-standing issues at the school. The staff had also previously gone on a go-slow in response to the inaction.
Some of the grievances include “continuing, consistent ill-treatment of colleagues, intimidation, bullying and victimisation by those who hold authority” – namely the principal and school management team (SMT).
The staff also highlighted the “rife employment of unqualified staff members, and fraudulent and flawed interview processes” to hire those who are related or have relations to the principal and the SMT.
Staff members also raised cases of sexual assault.
The staff demanded a full investigation to be launched by the WCED, specifically over the employment of staff; an investigation of the School Governing Body (SGB); vetting of qualifications and experience of those in leadership positions; and an external audit on the expenditure of school funds, particularly around funds provided by the WCED to make the school wheelchair friendly.
At the time, the staff also called for the suspension and disbandment of the SMT/SGB and for a temporary caretaker principal to be installed pending the investigation.
A staff member said: “They get their family members employed at the school as ‘teacher assistants’, family members of the SMT are prioritised over community members.”
A task team was sent to the school and evidence was supplied to the team.
On Wednesday, police were called to the school following extensive damage caused by some of the learners.
Speaking anonymously, a teacher said: “The principal called the police and there was a scuffle between the learners and the police and the police had rifles and everything.”
The police van was reportedly attacked and a window broken.
“The kids then moved to the school property, that’s when they started vandalising a whole admin block.”
The teacher said the violence was as a result of the learners demanding that the principal leave the school. He said that the aggrieved staff demanded that all contract staff be absorbed and reiterated calls for the removal of the principal as well as the SMT/SGB.
WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said a lengthy investigation has been conducted and that the outcome was still to be communicated to the school community.
“There was an incident at the school on Wednesday when it was alleged that a Grade R learner was assaulted by an SGB-employed educator. The SGB, including the principal, met community members and informed them that a disciplinary hearing would take place next week.