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Conflict at Khayelitsha school over corruption allegations

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Education Department says it has found no evidence to support past allegations

Photo of protesting parents
Parents protest outside Sosebenza Primary School in Site B Khayelitsha. Photo: Siyavuya Khaya
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A group of concerned parents picketed on 23 February at Sosebenza Primary School in Site B Khayelitsha following allegations that the school principal, Vusumzi Soyeye, is corrupt, and also unruly towards teachers and parents. Parents accused the principal of misusing school funds for personal gain.

Soyeye denied the claims. He said the education department had investigated the matter and found nothing and that this is a plot to kick him out of the school. “How can I use school funds for my personal gain when I am being paid by the department every month and I am not a greedy person,” he told the protesting parents.

Parents also expressed discontent with the School Governing Body (SGB), claiming that it is defending the principal. They are demanding the SGB be removed. They want to elect an interim board to run the school.

Tempers flared when parents stormed the gate of the school unannounced and demanded that the principal respond to the allegations that have been levelled against him. While some parents chanted that he is corrupt, others defended him and arguments broke out. The principal was blamed for the deteriorating state of the school. Matters escalated when parents chanted “Lenja mayihambe” to the principal (loosely translated: you are a dog and must go).

Desmond Phaliso, a parent, told GroundUp it appears that the whole management of the school is corrupt and there are factions within the school. He added that some are on the side of the principal and others are on the side of the deputy, but they are all corrupt, he emphasised.

This comes after a grade 4 teacher Noluthando Hamza, who was a member of the SGB was suspended from the SGB of the school three weeks ago. Hamza told GroundUp that she had noticed that the SGB was employing some people at the school without consulting the full SGB and that SGB meetings were held without informing some of the members.

Hamza said the meetings were held by the secretary, deputy-chair and chairperson of the SGB and they called themselves an executive of the SGB.

“I wrote a letter to the SGB stating my concerns about what they were doing. I said there is a communication break-down and that needed to be resolved. They wrote a letter back to me calling me to the meeting. They said I should write a letter explaining what I meant when I said there is a communication break-down and I refused. I said here I am. Why can’t I tell you in person what I meant by that?” She says the SGB refused to listen to her and informed her she was suspended.

Hamza added that the school principal physical pushed her twice blocking her way when she wanted to attend a meeting of the SGB. She said that the principal had mobilised a group of parents to chase her out of the school and had spread rumours that she is not attending her classes.

“The principal is corrupt. The principal said that I should not be allowed to enter the school premises and I fear for my safety at the moment. I have been teaching here since 2003 and this is the first thing that has ever occurred. Parents and some members of the SGB came to me said that I should leave the class as they were instructed by the principal, but I refused and they persisted and that is when I screamed for help. This has led to a decline of the school pass rate because we have been subjected to his abusive rule for many years now. He must leave the school,” she said.

Deputy principal, Thembinkosi Mguye said this corruption has been going since 2013 and they have been subjected to the principal’s unruly behaviour for some time now. “There was an arranged meeting on Sunday last week between the parents and principal, but the principal opted to take away the school keys from the caretaker preventing the meeting from occurring.” The meeting was supposed to address the corruption allegations and alleged misuse of funds.

The Western Cape Education Department’s Director of Communication, Paddy Attwell, said the department’s district office is aware of yesterday’s protest. Attwell said similar allegations had been made before but the department investigated thoroughly and found that there were no grounds for them. “Our officials will continue to work with all concerned to address underlying tensions within the school community,” he said.

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