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'We can’t allow an injustice against Heathfield High School's Wesley Neumann to stand'

Wesley Neumann, principal of Heathfield High School, was dismissed from his job with immediate effect by the WCED. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Wesley Neumann, principal of Heathfield High School, was dismissed from his job with immediate effect by the WCED. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Nov 4, 2021

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This will be one of the most important articles I have written in my entire life. It is critical to me because the future of a promising young teacher and principal hangs in the balance.

Nowhere in this modern world has a leader-teacher been brought before a teaching authority and tried for assisting to stop the worldwide pandemic, which has created havoc in world society.

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No country in the world has been spared from this dreaded disease.

Nowhere in the world should people be targeted when they express their humanitarian views.

Most South Africans who were against the unjust nature of apartheid fought against this brutal system. Freedom came with hardship, and in the case of Neumann, hardship has come with freedom.

On Monday, October 11, Wesley Neumann, 36, received the official outcome of his disciplinary hearing, which must rank as perhaps the longest disciplinary hearing for a teacher in the world.

It spanned from December 2020 to July 2021, 22 school days, instead of a recommended decision by presiding officer Ronelle Raubenheimer, which should have been given to Neumann five days after the disciplinary hearing commenced.

Instead, the decision was contained in a 362-page document from Raubenheimer. Neumann had to reply to this within five days, if he wanted to give reasons (mitigating circumstances) in lieu of a sanction.

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Neumann indicated to Raubenheimer that he had said all that he wanted to say in his disciplinary hearing. On October 27, Neumann was given the sanction of dismissal.

During the extraordinary disciplinary hearing, it is alleged (and it was reported to the police) that an official in the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) Labour Relations Department went to the home of a temporary teacher at Heathfield High where Neumann is principal and tried to bribe the Heathfield High teacher to give evidence against Neumann.

The WCED official allegedly offered the teacher a post at another high school near Heathfield High. The teacher refused to do this. The official from the WCED is facing charges of bribery by the police.

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Raubenheimer and the WCED refused to allow this teacher to testify in the disciplinary hearing of Neumann, stating that this matter had nothing to do with the case.

Neumann is a dynamic young man who speaks his mind. Instead of the WCED nurturing such teachers, the WCED feels threatened.

The WCED, since its inception in 1996, has a history of bullying teachers.

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When I was employed by WCED, I called it an anti-Labour Relations Department. Very few Members of the executive (Education MEC) have played a constructive role in education, with the exception of Cameron Dugmore and Yusuf Gabru.

The WCED head of Education, Brent Walters, must now step in. He has the power to do so. He must not pass the buck to (Education MEC) Debbie Schäfer.

If Walters wants to move away from the direction of his predecessor Brian Schreuder (who, believe it or not, is at the age of 70 still employed by WCED) he must show his bite.

On a principled basis, I would not want to be in the WCED beyond the compulsory retirement age of 65.

I urge people to read the 362page document by Raubenheimer on why she found Neumann guilty of serious misconduct.

It is not worth the paper it is written on. The WCED has to change its attitude towards its employees. It still believes in the top-down apartheid way of organising and dealing with issues.

Teachers and non-teaching staff must continue to challenge the archaic authoritative approach of those in the WCED who, yesterday, supported the apartheid system and now hide behind the democracy we, as the oppressed people of South Africa, fought for.

To Wesley Neumann: you have won a principled fight. You can look your executors straight in the eye without blinking. You are an outstanding leader in our country.

President Cyril Ramaphosa must intervene immediately.

You will win the battle.

* Brian Isaacs obtained a BSc (UWC) in 1975, a Secondary Teacher’s Diploma in 1976, BEd (UWC) in 1981, and MEd (UWC) in 1992. He is a former matriculant, teacher and principal at South Peninsula High School.

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

Cape Argus

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