Durban - At least 32 disgruntled teachers are not on duty at an uMlazi high school, leaving pupils in the lurch on the eve of their mid-year examinations.

The crisis at Vukuzakhe High School in uMlazi’s L-Section, sparked by demands for the removal of the principal amid allegations of fraud, corruption and abuse, has led to the doubling of the workload for the remaining teachers.

The school has 44 teachers, of whom 32, according to the school’s register, had stayed away for the past fortnight, said the South African Democratic Teachers Union’s (Sadtu) Durban South chairman, Bheki Fakazi.

Most of the absent teachers teach Grade 10, 11 and 12 classes in subjects such as maths and science.

The KZN Department of Education has amended the school’s exam timetable as its officials work to resolve the problems there.

“The department regrets that it has come to a situation where there are so many disruptions at the school,” said department spokesman, Muzi Mahlambi.

He said education superintendent-general Dr Nkosinathi Sishi and district officials had visited the school on Tuesday.

One of the absent teachers sought to justify their action, telling the Daily News: “Teachers have been fired for taking maternity leave. There are tender corruption and fraud at the school. The principal does things on her own with her loyal teachers who have no positions at the school. Those things made us leave the school because teachers who do not get along with the principal are labelled for things that are not true.”

Said another teacher, who also declined to be named: “We are not going to allow them to manage the school this way. We want the department to take her away from the school… or fire us.”

The embattled principal, Doris Fulela, declined to comment, explaining she had been instructed to refer all media enquiries to the department.

However, a teacher at the school who asked to remain anonymous, as he feared victimisation, came to her defence. He claimed the call for her removal was part of a smear campaign by Sadtu members who wanted to replace her with their own preferred Sadtu member from another school.

“They have their own agendas to put in a Sadtu member (in the principal’s position). Sadtu is fuelling this,” he said.

“They have failed, the Sadtu strategy has failed. We don’t have an issue with our principal. She is democratic and open-minded, and she is doing well for the school. We know that she wants the best for the learners.”

Fakazi said all teachers at the school were Sadtu members. “How can Sadtu drive a smear campaign against its own member?” he asked.

“We cannot comment on the allegations. But all our members - including the principal - are innocent until proven guilty,” Fakazi said.

Another teacher who supported the principal said: “Sadtu is not the same. They want to get rid of all the old Sadtu members who are against corruption, like me.”

The absent teachers said their complaints against Fulela had nothing to do with Sadtu and were not an attempt to get their preferred candidate to replace her.

“How can you take someone with a job from somewhere else and just hire them? That is propaganda because the union is on our side,” said one.

The teachers on the principal’s side claim that the stay-away was being led by a teacher who had been challenged by the principal for holding a senior position without the relevant qualification.

However, the alleged leader said: “They think that the department is that stupid to keep a person without a qualification for this long. That was created by the principal because she wants to pursue her interests.”

Qiniso Ndlovu, a Congress of South African Students leader at the school, said the row started two weeks ago with a teacher with whom pupils were not happy because only three pupils from her five classes had passed in the past term.

“We are not going along with some of the things that she is doing in class. She comes in class and teaches while playing music on her phone. She tells pupils that they are witches,” Ndlovu claimed.

He said among the absent teachers were those that pupils were also not happy with.

“They did this to shift focus because they are also not doing well,” said Ndlovu.

“Our principal is good.”

Mahlambi said the school’s governance, finance, management and labour related matters would be part of the department’s broad investigation.

While he said he could not disclose the allegations made by any of the stakeholders, he confirmed officials had heard from all sides - the disgruntled teachers, principal, school governing body and Sadtu.

“The HOD (head of department, Sishi) went to the school on Tuesday. It is a pity that parents were not available at short notice. We want to normalise the situation, so that teaching and learning can take place as soon as possible.”

Daily News