MEC of Education Panyaza Lesufi and his officials spent Tuesday trying to prevent the Eldorado Park school from being shut down.
He held talks with the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) as he sought to end the impasse.
Lesufi’s intervention comes after Sadtu withdrew 345 teachers affiliated with it from schools around Eldos.
They claim that the action is in solidarity with black teachers who were barred from Klipspruit West Secondary School. Trouble at the school started a few months ago when local residents rejected the black principal who was hired.
One of the measures Lesufi put into place to manage the situation was bringing the SA Human Rights Commission on board.
A community member, who did not want to be identified, said this move was poorly thought out. He said that from the outset, the selection process for the principal’s appointment was full of irregularities.
“The rules state that the chairperson should be a parent but the chairperson was not a parent, and more so, was the circuit manager, which is totally unacceptable,” he said.
He also believed that Sadtu was controlling Lesufi.
As the situation deteriorates, a former teacher at the secondary school, Ethne Alberts, said she was recruiting former teachers to help restore the school to its former glory.
“I think people need to forget their personal and political agendas and focus on what matters - the future of the children.
“The matrics being removed is a good solution, but what about the other grades? I am even scared to say that the children are going to fail the year because it is just impossible to catch up,” said Alberts.
A resident, who didn’t want to be identified, said the black principal should have been given a fair chance. However, he accused the Education Department of failing them.
“I have three children who attend better schools because the department has failed us as the community. I now pay more but there is a school right here. The government has failed us, the Education Department has failed us and we’ve failed ourselves,” he said.
Desmond Luvhengo, chairperson of Sadtu, said he was unable to comment on the matter until after the meetings with the department had adjourned.
Department spokesperson Steve Mabona said the issues tackled during the meeting were those of educators who felt unsafe and feared being terrorised by the community.
Lesufi warned there was a possibility that the school might close. He also confirmed that 300 children were present as opposed to the 800 learners enrolled at the school.
“I have reached a stage where a decision has to be made, and it is not going to be a nice one.”
He added he would engage with parents, the community as well as Sadtu members tomorrow to seek and establish a way forward. He stressed that teachers who skipped work would not be paid.
The MEC assured teachers who feared for their lives that the community would in no way intimidate them and that it was safe to return to school as there would be a police presence outside the premises at all times.
“We need to decide for the future of the school and it can’t be like this forever,” he said.