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Unity English Medium woes

Business

…Education Ministry advices for school board dissolution

…Board Chair and deputy accused of bullying

Nthatuoa Koeshe

Tiffs and squabbles within the administration of the once renowned top rated Unity English Medium School has birthed a distasteful dissection in the school, Newsday has learnt.

This publication learnt that the brawl at the school is so intense that the Ministry of Education and Training had to intervene in a bid to salvage the situation that is reportedly putting pupils’ education at peril.    

So intense is the situation that the Principal was dragged out of the school following a directive given the new security guards, told to never set foot on the school premises.

Unity Principal ‘Matšoana khaka confirmed all.

To remedy the incumbent situations, the ministry has decided to dissolve a nine-member-board and elect a new one, following deliberations that came out of a meeting instigated a fortnight ago.      

The current board was elected in May 2021 with the help from the ministry. The divided board has two members; Chairman and Deputy Chairman backing Principal Khaka who assumed the incumbency last year after serving as the Deputy Principal to Khaohano Sam Mokhothu for the past 18 years.

Mokhothu who retired from the helm of the school due to spats erupting at the English Medium was however supported by seven staunch members of the board who stressed that the latter should continue to shepherd the school. 

Although the turmoil comes a long way, the trouble started the day those in favour of Mokhothu hired new security guards a few weeks back, and instructed them to not let Khaka in the school’s premises.

In an interview with this paper, Khaka confirmed that she was indeed escorted by security guards out of the school’s premises on Friday, two weeks ago with the explanation that she should not enter the school’s premises.

She said the directive to kick her out of the school yard was ordered by a portion of board members which had previously slapped her with a dismissal letter on the grounds that she was not working well with them as the Principal of the school.

“After being escorted out of the school’s premises, I wrote to the Ministry of Education reporting the situation and I was advised that for my safety I should stay at home. They further had a meeting with the board where the ministry advised that the board should be dissolved,” she said.

It was not long after Khaka was thrown out of the school premises when the parents to students attending school at Unity teamed up to seek clarity on matters surrounding the school inter alia; clarity on who the Principal is following a confusion that has clouded the entire school with two principals at the helm.

Parent further demanded to know who the signatories of the school accounts were, the status of the school’s funds and what the funds have been using for in the past months. They wanted to know if the reports they have been getting from their children that teachers are not attending classes are true and why has that been happening.

Clarity on the role of the board in the school and why the board has been meeting daily and wasting funds when they should just meet four times in a month was in the roster of their curious questions, bearers and controllers of school stamps were, and reasons the new security guards were hired yet the school has security guards who have been working with the school.

The parents also could not understand why the school introduced the eighth grade saying there were subjects such as Computer and French which are not taught and yet they are paid for. It was also aired by the parents that the board has not been communicating with the parents to either give them reports or the status of the school and update the parents on the decisions taken by the school.   

Despite tempers flaring high, parents got to learn of the divided school board members; team Mokhothu and team Khaka, and that those divisions have influenced and affected the teachers and ultimately affecting the children’s education.

Addressing the parents and teachers two weeks ago, chairman of the board Tšabelo ‘Mabathoana said they introduced Grade 8 following the realisation that students struggle to find schools after they are done with Grade 7.

He however said grade 8 currently does not have a Principal.

“Grade 8 was introduced because students struggle with schools after completing grade 7 and currently, there is no principal for that grade,” he said while addressing the parents.

It was during this meeting that the teachers also disclosed that the division makes their work extremely hard as they fear they would eventually lose their jobs. They said there has been some whose work was made hard because of the principals who expect them to take sides.

Owing to the discussion of the meeting, some parents also suggested that the board should be dissolved and a new board should be established while the others suggested that board should remain in power until the mess has been resolved.

Speaking to this paper, Principal Mokhothu clarified that he has since retired in May, 2022 and is no longer part of the school, but told this paper that he believed that the mayhem at the school is likely to affect the future of the students in the long run.

He explained that the divided board has resultantly divided the teachers who spent the entire day in groups holding caucus meetings and not teaching the students while some who do not accept the ongoing situations carries their teaching duties as normal.

Mokhothu said though he has been part of the school for a long time, he had to retire because of his age but said since the committee was put in power, chaos hit the school.

He said the committee had ruthless intentions of sweeping out some people out of the school.

He added that there was no proper handover or any communications of the intention to take him out of the school leadership but was locked outside when he returned from his three month leave in November last year with Khaka on the rudder.

“The problem is that the chairman of the board and his deputy perceive themselves at the entire board and make all the decisions without including other board members,” Mokhothu said adding that the chairman and his deputy have become bullies of the school as they fire and hire teachers without any consultations.

Mokhothu said at least seven teachers have been fired by the board’s chairman and his deputy without any consultations with other members. He further noted that they take decisions such as cutting down trees at the school without any consultation with the rest of the school management.

“This shows their thinking capacity as adults. In the mist of all the chaos, the boards itself is taking each other to the courts of law and legal fees are accruing. They do not attend some meeting and they are also in possession of the school stamps,” he said.

He said with all the commotion taking place at the school, even the planning of the school’s activities is in shambles thus causing a lot of misunderstanding between the staff and how they carry out their roles in ensuring that the school is ran properly.

Mokhuthu said the introduction of Grade 8 at the school can serve as an example that it was not planned properly. He said the teachers are underpaid and classes are held in the Computer Lab as there were no preparations prior on how Grade 8 will be managed.

“Having Grade 8 students using a Computer Lab as a classroom restricts other students from accessing the Computer Lab and this affects their learning. There are fees paid by parents for the Computer lessons but with the introduction of this grade, students are not taught what their parents pay for,” he said.

Mokhothu said there are also physical education classes that clash with lessons during the day called Monkey-Nastics saying the payment for those classes are paid directly to the instructor meaning for those students who have not paid, time for them to be learning goes to waste.

He continued that funds which are normally called ‘butterfly funds’ intended for the school’s infrastructure are exhausted to host parties by Khaka and her followers.

“The principal has to take the butterfly funds to Cashbuild so that the money is used towards the school’s infrastructure but instead, there is a portion of teachers who will have parties with this money,” he said.

However, Khaka told this paper that she is still the principal of the school. 

She explained that teachers are still teaching students well and the issue of computers was resolved, however she indicated that Grade 8 students are still using the Computer Lab serving as a classroom while the school resolves where the classes can be held.

Khaka further assured parents and the public that the school is still stable and the challenges faced at the moment could not propel school’s closure.

She said the board sat down and decided to retire Mokhothu saying the ministry also agreed that he goes to retirement.

Contacted for comment the Ministry of Education confirmed that the resolution to dissolve the board was made but said the board has since taken the school to the courts of law to challenge the decision.

“The ministry resolved that the board should be dissolved but we learned that the board has taken the school to the courts to challenge this,” Ministry of Education’s Chief Information Officer Molikuoa ‘Mota said.

The two divisions of the board denied taking the school to the court when contacted by this publication. They stated that they knew nothing about taking the school to the court.

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