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LETTER: Double standards practised at the Western Cape Education Department

Heathfield High School. Picture: Sisonke Mlamla/Cape Argus

Heathfield High School. Picture: Sisonke Mlamla/Cape Argus

Published Nov 9, 2021

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What is going on at the Western Cape Education Department (WCED)?

Where is our country heading, and in particular the education system in the Western Cape? The WCED has fired Wesley Neumann, principal at Heathfield High School. Does it appear that draconian apartheid tactics are still practised at the WCED?

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Let us look at the facts.

According to the South African School’s Act 84 of 1996 (Sasa), Mr Neumann as principal automatically becomes a member of the school governing body (SGB). The SGB is the highest statutory body of authority at a school and is responsible for managing all facets at a public school.

Further, according to Sasa, each member of the SGB has an equal vote. The principal does not hold a “veto vote”. It appears that the SGB decided to close Heathfield High School to protect its learners in view of the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 at the time.

Neumann, as the principal, was tasked by the SGB to announce its decision to the learners and the parents. However, this act by him was listed as one of the charges laid by the WCED. Instead of slapping Neumann with a final warning as a first offender, the WCED fired him summarily.

Turning back the clock to 2017, we find that Charmaine Murray, then principal of Sans Souci, used apartheid-type practices, such as not allowing blacks to speak their mother tongue at school and her school rules did not accommodate the hair of black learners.

A commission was appointed to investigate the claims and found Murray guilty of all charges. Instead of firing Murray, the WCED treated her with kid-gloves and allowed her to retire gracefully with all benefits despite her despicable apartheid practices 22 years into our democracy.

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The approach by the WCED is clearly sending out a signal to young and dynamic principals to toe the line with its draconian practices – or else they will be fired. Imagine working in such an environment.

Finally, does the approach by the WCED foster an environment conducive to meaningful teaching and learning? And how will the WCED’s draconian style of management impact the type of learners produced?

You be the judge.

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* Adiel Ismail, Mountview.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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