File picture: African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Charges against Heathfield principal neither personal nor political, says WCED

By Athandile Siyo Time of article published Sep 29, 2020

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Cape Town – Heathfield High School parents and school governing body (SGB) members picketed outside the Western Cape Department of Education’s (WCED) office in the CBD yesterday as principal Wesley Neumann appeared before a disciplinary hearing on a string of charges, including one relating to pupils attending school during the lockdown.

In a letter sent to parents last week, which the Cape Times has seen, Neumann said he faced 10 charges, including alleged misconduct, in that on or about July 24, he failed to carry out a lawful order by issuing letters to parents of Grade 12 learners, ensuring that they attended school from August 3 and /or ensuring that educators teaching Grade 12 learners were on duty.

WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond, without confirming any charges, said: “Mr Neumann has been charged with six charges of alleged misconduct in terms of the Employment of Educators Act, 76 of 1998.

“The matter is sub judice and the contents of these charges cannot be disclosed.

“The charges against Mr Neumann are neither personal nor political. Mr Neumann’s actions are in contravention of the Employment of Educators Act, 76 of 1998.”

Prior to August, Neumann and three other principals had written an open letter to the Department of Basic Education on June 22, raising their concerns around the safety of schools during the pandemic and calling for schools to remain closed until the Covid-19 peak was over.

In his letter to parents, Neumann wrote: “The Education Department has brought 10 charges in total against myself.

The charges against myself must be viewed in a serious light as the Education Department intends to pursue a sanction of dismissal should I be found guilty.

“We were in the heart of the winter season, and it is common knowledge that the coronavirus thrives under cold conditions.

“At this time, incidents of teachers and children suffering and dying due to Covid 19 were on the rise. There was a grave concern about the contagious nature and how this would spread to the broader community, especially to learners with aged carers.

“Due to the vast inequalities that handicap our education system, and Heathfield High is no exception, the school struggled with cleaning personnel to ensure that the school was routinely and daily sanitised, as required by law.

“While school remained open, the SGB, supported by the staff, took a conscious decision to urge parents to consider the safety of their children and not to send them to school until after the peak of Covid-19 infections had been reached and until infection rates decreased.

“The School Governing Body’s stance to oppose the premature reopening of schools must be commended as their view was vindicated by the president by closing schools for four weeks.

“There is no doubt that this contributed to the current state of controlled infections.”

Neumann said he believed that the charges against him were personally and politically motivated.

SGB spokesperson Brandon De Kock said: “The SGB and parents fully stand by Mr Neumann and we will support him till the end.

“This man has dedicated his career to the children, putting their wellbeing, the parents and the teachers first. This is bullying, victimisation and intimidation.”

Cape Times

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