THE community of Gugulethu has had enough of a Tembaletu Learners with Special Education Needs school principal as they accuse him of maladministration and prejudice towards the people of the community.
From Monday, Gugulethu community members have been demonstrating outside the school gates, and law enforcement has had to be called to defuse the situation.
Max Nqunqa, an executive member of the Uprising Committee, said since 2019 the principal had been discriminating against the people of Gugulethu, preferring to employ people that resided in places such as Khayelitsha. He said that the community was always left in the dark as to what was happening at the school, only to hear that some employees were being mistreated at the school.
Nqunqa said: “Firstly, the entire school governing body (SGB) at the school comprises people from Khayelitsha, and there's not a single person who is from Gugulethu, and this we find very problematic.
“The principal has over the years frustrated and mistreated employees who are from Gugulethu to the point where they ended up resigning. Recently, he has dismissed two employees who are from our community without a valid reason.
“He runs the school without the consultation of the community in which the school is based. We have been pleading with him for some time now; however, he continues to use delay tactics and undermines us. Hence, the community now finds itself in the position that it is in now.”
Nqunqa said they were not saying people from outside Gugulethu should not be employed, but there should be a balance when it came to employment, and people should be appointed on merit and fairness.
“The school is built in Gugulethu, and we as the community are the first people to respond when there’s a problem at the school, so for the principal to say he doesn’t want people from Gugulethu, that doesn’t make sense as we are the ones who advocated for the school and gave permission for the school to be built. A school built in Gugulethu should not discriminate against people from Gugulethu,” said Nqunqa.
Tembaletu is only one of four special needs schools in the Western Cape offering education to Xhosa-speaking children in their mother tongue. It is one of two that caters to learners with physical disabilities and is the only one that offers a mainstream curriculum.
Speaking on behalf of the school and principal, Bronagh Hammond, spokesperson of the Western Cape Education Department, said some community members, many of whom did not have children in the school, made various allegations against the principal and school management team, and one such allegation was the hiring of school bus drivers from outside the community.
“The SGB has claimed that the drivers are local, and due process has been followed. The principal has made numerous attempts to discuss this with the relevant community members; however, they have not arrived for the scheduled meetings,” said Hammond.
He said the SGB had also been duly elected, and there were parents on the SGB who did not live in the immediate area but had children in the school.
"It is their right to be nominated for the SGB, if duly elected. It is the nature of special schools, given the specific needs that they cater to, to accommodate learners from outside of the immediate area. This is not uncommon at all special needs schools in the province," said Hammond.
He said community members who were not parents of learners in the school were not eligible to be part of the SGB.
The WECD met with the community on the matter, and follow-up meetings would be held starting next week.