Some 250 teachers, 33 principals, 31 school management team members and 53 education department officials were disciplined last year for anything from theft to fraud, assault, corruption and alcohol abuse. Picture: African News Agency
Some 250 teachers, 33 principals, 31 school management team members and 53 education department officials were disciplined last year for anything from theft to fraud, assault, corruption and alcohol abuse. Picture: African News Agency

Shock as Education MEC reveals litany of cases against educators

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published Apr 9, 2021

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Cape Town - Some 250 teachers, 33 principals, 31 school management team members and 53 education department officials were disciplined last year for anything from theft to fraud, assault, corruption and alcohol abuse.

These shocking numbers were revealed in a written reply by Education MEC Debbie Schäfer to a question by ANC education spokesperson Khalid Sayed in the provincial legislation.

The figures were released as the Vredenburg Primary School principal who allegedly denied a second-year education student, William Sezoe, an opportunity to observe a class because of his hairstyle, was fined and issued with a written warning.

Sayed said it was disappointing that the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) hasn't forced the principal to apologise.

"The ANC has also noted a disturbing trend from the WCED of slapping officials on the wrist for serious transgressions such as financial misconduct, sexual misconduct and racism, while hard-working teachers are harshly punished for standing up for what is right," said Sayed.

However the document reveals that of the 33 cases against principals, 10 who were charged with assault were given a final written warning and fined, 11 were charged with financial mismanagement and given final written warnings and fined, two were dismissed for financial mismanagement and one was dismissed for theft.

Alarmingly, 136 teachers were charged with assault, given final written warnings and fined. Five teachers were dismissed for sexual assault and five for improper conduct (sexual harassment).

Equal Education Law Centre's senior attorney Tarryn Cooper-Bell said they have also received numerous enquiries over the last year in relation to alleged misconduct of principals and teachers.

Cooper-Bell said in cases of gross misconduct which included financial mismanagement and sexual misconduct, provincial education departments needed to take a harder line in relation to sanctioning individuals involved and prioritising the interests of the children instead of the interest of the unions.

Schäfer said they took all matters very seriously, and each case proceeded on its own merits with an independent presiding officer who imposed the sanctions for the offence, not the department.

Education activist Hendrick Makaneta said education practitioners have a duty to comply with the duty of care and to do everything in their power to make sure that a conducive environment prevails for learning and teaching.

"Schäfer should work around the clock to inculcate the spirit of collaboration and build a united and diverse workforce that can operate in an environment where learners are assisted to develop the capacity to create their own future," he said.

South African Council for Educators (Sace) chief executive Ella Mokgalane said in terms of section 26 of the Sace Act, employers have to report the cases that they have finalised to Sace which resulted in any sanction other than a caution or a reprimand.

Mokgalane said the Western Cape has been reporting its cases consistently and therefore most of the cases that have been reported to Sace were from the Western Cape.

She said while they could not dictate to provincial departments or the Department of Basic Education as to what it was that they needed to do, Sace submitted that teachers needed to be taught on issues relating to culture, diversity and tolerance.

Cape Argus

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