Cape Town – The Heathfield High school governing body’s (SGB) attempts to personally appeal for the new provincial Education head of department Brent Walters to consider dropping charges against principal Wesley Neumann were dashed yesterday.
Neumann’s supporters, including pupils and teachers, picketed outside the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) offices yesterday, where Neumann appeared for a disciplinary hearing.
Neumann is facing six charges for failing to carry out an instruction of the employer, after refusing to reopen the school at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic last year.
SGB spokesperson Brandon De Kock said the charges must be dropped or the hearing must be opened to the public.
“We wanted to hand over the petition to Walters because we have made a number of attempts to engage and reason with the department, but to no avail.
’’Maybe a new person will understand our plight. The department sent two officials instead of Walters, and we refused to give them anything.
“What we don’t understand is that if WCED could intervene in the Brackenfell matter and the student teacher in Vredenburg Primary School, why not resolve this peacefully,” said De Kock.
Education Department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said they were aware of the campaign to “discredit” their department, and the ongoing legal process by a “small minority group”. This included dismissed principals and teachers that are not employed by the department, she said.
Hammond said Walters wrote to the SGB yesterday morning, noting their email sent on Tuesday night, requesting him to be present to receive a petition yesterday.
“Brent Walters indicated that the request to avail himself, at such short notice, was unreasonable and that he had asked two senior officials to collect the petition. The protesters refused to hand over the petition to the officials.
“Walters emphasised that he had already indicated that the legal process must be allowed to continue, and should do so unhindered by any party.
’’He said that the charges that have been brought against Mr Neumann are being contemplated in a hearing, where he is being given a fair opportunity to answer them,” said Hammond.
She said Walters requested that the SGB respect the legal process, and had previously indicated he was willing to meet with them about the matter, once the hearing has been concluded.