| EASTERN CAPE

Principal accused of pocketing money for school uniforms

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Eastern Cape education department investigating

Photo of school
The principal of Tembeni Senior Primary School is being investigated by the Eastern Cape education department. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik
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A school principal in the Eastern Cape is under investigation on suspicion of mismanaging school funds.

Eastern Cape businessman, Sithembele Mjwana has sent a lawyer’s letter to Nomfundo Ntshwabulo, principal of Tembeni Senior Primary School near Mthatha, demanding payment of R92,000.

Attempts over several days to reach Ntshwabulo for comment were unsuccessful.

According to the letter, the school ordered school uniforms from Mjwana between 2015 and 2016 and failed to make the payment.

Members of the school governing body say that Ntshwabulo has been making payments using the school’s cheque book without their authorisation, claiming that money was used for school uniforms.

Eastern Cape Department of Education (ECDoE) spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said an investigation by the department was nearing completion. He did not want to give details.

Mjwana told GroundUp he had been supplying uniforms to the school for years. With Tembeni, as with other schools, he provided the uniforms on credit and when learners made payments to the school the school sent him a cheque. Everything had gone smoothly until the school stopped making payments in May 2015.

Mjwana said Ntshwabulo used to sign for all the deliveries.

Tembeni SGB members said they they were not part of this agreement and had never been involved selling school uniforms inside the school.

They told GroundUp that according to the school cheque books, the uniform money was paid out from the school money by Ntshwabulo and a former administrative officer. The cheque books are now missing.

SGB chair Nokwakha Sigwela said they had written about three letters to the ECDoE district office in Ngcobo telling them about their suspicions.

Sigwela said none of those letters had been answered. Parents had decided to fire Ntshwabulo, but the district education office had sent her back, her saying the SGB had not followed the right process.

SGB treasurer Xolani Ngesi said members had then approached the ECDoE Risk Management Team for help.

When GroundUp visited the school last week, the principal and SGB members were in a meeting.They could be heard shouting at each other inside the school.

A parent who did not want to be named told GroundUp she had paid R250 for a uniform for her child in 2016 but had never received it.

She said her daughter had to wear a skirt which was not the same as other learners’ skirts for two years until she took her to another school.

“I don’t know how many times I have been here to ask for my money and the principal kept telling me to wait for her call,” she said.

Mtima denied that the department had not acted immediately.

He said the district office had tried to investigate but had to pass the matter on to Risk Management.

Corruption Watch spokesperson Phemelo Khaas said the organisation had been sent about 196 reports of corruption in Eastern Cape schools between 2011 and 2016.

Khaas said about 46% of these reports concerned “embezzlement of funds”. She said people reported parents being forced to pay fees at “no-fee” schools; food items being stolen; and funds being withdrawn from school accounts. “Typically, principals and chairpersons of school governing bodies are implicated in these activities,” she said.

When GroundUp contacted Ntshwabulo last week, she said she was aware of the allegations and asked to be called after an hour. Since then both her cellphone numbers have been on voicemail. The school has no landline.

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TOPICS:  Education

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