Parents of learners at Heathfield high school have voiced their discontent over the treatment of principal Wesley Neumann and have accused the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) of using bullying tactics to silence him. Neumann is facing disciplinary action by the department yesterday and attended a pre-trial hearing on Monday, where parents staged a picket.
Neumann and three other principals seemed to have raised the ire of the WCED after they wrote an open letter to the Department of Basic Education and provincial department, raising their concerns around the safety of schools during the pandemic. The principals had called for schools to remain closed until the COVID19 peak is over and held daily pickets with parents and teachers to highlight this. Neumann is being charged for 10 alleged transgressions, including contravening COVID19 protocols. It is alleged the principal refused to reopen the school amid the infection peak. He is also accused of attempting to assault a learner by pointing a finger in his face. However, Neumann claimed that the pupil was intoxicated and that he was the one who was assaulted.
Speaking on VOC’s Breakfast Show on Tuesday morning, the school governing body (SGB)’s Brandon de Kock said it was the idea of the SGB to close the school out of concern for the learners.
“During lockdown during one of our meetings our resolve was to urge parents not to send their children to school until the peak of the pandemic had passed and that is not what Mr. Neumann said that came from the SGB,” explained De Kock.
SGB members and some parents who’ve come out in support of Neumann handed over a memorandum of demands to the province’s education department.
“We wrote a letter to the Head of the Department [Brian Schreuder] explaining that the decision to keep learners out of the classroom had nothing to do with Mr. Nuemann but we have never received a response,” claimed De Kock.
De Kock mentioned even though parents were encouraged to keep their children at home, the school was never closed.
De Kock stated he is unaware if the remaining three principals are facing any disciplinary action.
“It’s personal, it’s victimization and it’s plain bullying against Mr. Neumann,” said De Kock.
WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the department is in no way victimizing the principal.
“The charges against Mr. Neumann are neither personal nor political. Mr. Neumann’s actions is in contravention of the Employment of Educators Act and he has been charged with six charges of alleged misconduct in terms of this act. The contents of these charges cannot be divulged or disclosed as we are still in the pre-hearing stages of the case,” said Hammond.
“We don’t agree with any of these charges at all and we will fight until the bitter end,” added De Kock.