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More support for under-fire principal who refused to re-open school during Covid-19 peak

Heathfield High School in Cape Town

Heathfield High School in Cape Town

Published Oct 5, 2020


Cape Town - The Heathfield High School community, parents and School Governing Body (SGB) members have created an action group and online petition pledging support for under-fire principal Wesley Neumann.

This comes after Neumann’s supporters picketed outside the Western Cape Department of Education’s (WCED) office in the CBD last week as he appeared before a disciplinary hearing on 10 charges.

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Neumann had earlier this year refused to reopen the school amid the Covid-19 infection peak, and wrote an open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Cabinet asking for the closure of schools.

The newly formed Executive Action Group said that they intended to stand by Neumann throughout the case.

Group spokesperson Allan Liebenberg said: “The group decided to take action because this is bigger than Wesley Neumann or the Education Head of Department (HOD) Brian Schreuder, it will affect the whole department.

“We have seen this repressive bureaucracy … which Brian Schreuder represents, with the victimisation involving Brian Isaacs of South Peninsula High and it’s a pattern which we will litigate against, as Schreuder’s appointment was found to be irregular.

“Educators must be free thinkers with human urgency and that is Wesley Neumann. We, the community, will defend the ideas and values that he represents. No community would come out to support a principal if they didn’t see the value he brings and that is why I think it’s a personal vendetta, especially because of what is contained in the charge sheet.”

He said the group aimed to gain as many signatures as possible.

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In a letter sent to parents last week, Neumann said: “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.

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“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 its 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.”

WCED spokesperson Bronnagh Hammond said the department has not yet received any petition.

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“The pre-hearing was held on Monday. The process is still ongoing.”

Hammond did not confirm any charges but said his actions were in contravention of the Employment of Educators Act, 76 of 1998.