A 59-year-old teacher is living in his car in a Joburg park after being forced out of a teaching post. He claims he was dismissed because he is white.
"The whites days are numbered at school"
This is just one of several problems teachers say they face at some Joburg schools.
The principal at Bedfordview High School, where the teacher had been forced out, has been intimidated and hired bodyguards to protect him from certain members of his staff during meetings because he has been threatened and physically attacked, allegedly by SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) members.
The principal, Philip du Plessis, would not comment, but it has independently been verified that he has been threatened, attacked, and this week collapsed at school because of the stress.
Power struggles at schools are not unique to this school and are being experienced by others around greater Joburg.
Other problems identified by The Star include allegations by subject consultants who work at various schools who say they have seen principals bring bodyguards to meetings and one whose office is locked with security gates so that nobody can get to him.
"A principal even found listening devices in his office... There is not a doubt in my mind that principals are under siege," the consultant said.
Another principal has a R1.5 million defamation case against Sadtu for all the allegations that are being made against him. Since the papers suing the union have been delivered, the threats have got worse.
One principal at a school in Ekurhuleni received smses every day over a week from a number he did not recognise.
The SMSes read:
The Gauteng Department of Education has denied the problem at Bedfordview was race-based.
Sadtu's Ronald Nyathi said some white principals opposed transformation. He said former Model C schools were "becoming 100 percent black" and white principals were not happy with this.
"What we have observed is that white principals have a general reluctance towards affirmative action. Teachers see them as racist, and a white principal cannot work with black teachers."
He said he was not aware of intimidation at that school.
The Department of Education memorandum, seen by The Star, listed 63 problems identified by teachers at the Bedfordview school. Many of them accused the principal of stealing school funds.
The ousted teacher has been living in his car for five months, after a contract job he had for many years was discontinued.
"There are lots of days when I don't have any food. I'm so emotional about this," the teacher said.
The teacher was one of two who were forced to leave the school. On his first day at the school, a staff meeting was held and the deputy principal made an objection to the posts. "At the meeting, Sadtu-affiliated teachers openly said they did not want white teachers at the school," he claims.
A parent said the school was being run by the deputy principal, who had said many times that he was supposed to have been appointed as principal. The parent alleges she was threatened by him.
The deputy, Thomas Mhlanga, said there were no problems at the school and that everything was exaggerated.
MEC says safety no issue
Gauteng Education MEC Barbara Creecy has been travelling around the province to meet principals in recent weeks.
She said that at these meetings, only one principal had raised the issue of his personal safety, and this was at Die Burger High School in Joburg.
The MEC said that at Die Burger and Senaoane High, the department instituted investigations into alleged assaults of the principals.
At Senaoane High, three teachers have been suspended pending departmental disciplinary processes. Assault cases have also been opened.
In the case of Die Burger, the investigation is continuing because the principal has been unable to identify any assailants.
Creecy said the department was implementing a five-year strategic plan that places principals at the centre of the development of effective schools.
With regard to Bedfordview High, Creecy said their investigations had shown there was no racism involved in the dismissal of the teachers. She said the principal had not consulted the school governing body regarding the appointments, and the SGB was now correcting this.
"The issues at Bedfordview High are not race related, but are about non-compliance with appointment procedures and processes," she said.
Meanwhile, the SA Council for Educators has expressed dismay over violence, both physical and psychological, against teachers. - IOL