File picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)
File picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Support for under-fire principal over closing of schools

By Siphokazi Vuso Time of article published Jul 20, 2020

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Cape Town – Teachers and parents have rallied behind Heathfield High School principal Wesley Neumann following an appeal in open letters to President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Cabinet to shut down schools until it is safe to return.

In one of the letters, Neumann, writing on behalf of a group of principals, asked the government to reconsider their decision to reopen schools.

“We opine, with great conviction, that the decision to reopen primary and high schools on June 1 was the wrong one. We contend that the timing is bad as wintry weather brings with it seasonal illness, such as influenza.

“The coronavirus thrives under cold conditions and will also augment and exacerbate the onset of the flu and tuberculosis. At the time of writing this letter, incidents of teacher and children suffering and deaths due to Covid-19 are rising,” Neumann wrote.

Neumann said the group were “genuinely concerned about the health and safety of our children and teachers”. Yesterday he said verbal confirmation from the circuit manager indicated that disciplinary action was imminent.

New Unity Movement secretary Michael Titus said Neumann was acting in the best interest of students and personnel of Heathfield High, with the full support of the school’s governing body and parents.

WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said Neumann had not been suspended. “No letters have been issued and we will not comment on hearsay. 

"While Mr Neumann is certainly entitled to his own opinion on the opening and closing of schools during the pandemic, he is a government employee. 

"His conduct surrounding his expression of these views and his behaviour during the course of his employment is a source of concern to his employer.

“For example, failing to open a school when you are instructed to do so by your employer, is unacceptable,” Hammond said.

Cape Times

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