The principal and teacher of a primary school in Mlungisi appeared in the Queenstown magistrate’s court last week on assault charges.
Bukelwa Mdlela, 56, the principal of Thembelihle Public Primary School and Bukelwa Mgwigwi, 45, a teacher at the school, were allegedly involved in a scuffle with the son of another senior staffer on Wednesday, March 3 at the school in Soga Street. The son had apparently gone to the school to deliver an item to his parent when he was allegedly attacked.
According to sources, an ongoing dispute between the principal and the deputy principal has caused rifts among staff at the school. This was reportedly affecting the day-to-day functioning of the school. The Rep learnt that the situation had been reported to the district office, but the impasse continued unabated.
Police spokesperson, Capt Namhla Mdleleni, confirmed the charges. She said: “Both teachers were charged with common assault and are out on warning.”
During their brief court appearance, the two teachers were informed of their constitutional rights, including appointing a private legal representative or applying for legal aid. They both chose to hire a private attorney and the case was postponed until March 26.
While the pair appeared in court, a group of about 10 teachers dressed in white golf shirts spent most of the morning outside, in solidarity with their colleagues.
Meanwhile, reports made the rounds that children were left in the care of teacher assistants with little or no teaching or learning taking place.
However, when a Rep journalist visited the school that morning, a senior teacher denied that children were left in the hands of assistants. He said there was no crisis and teaching and learning were continuing despite the fact that a number of teachers had gone to court. “We are about 30 [teachers] and, as you can see, children are in class. There is no chaos here,” the teacher said.
In a statement to The Rep, provincial education spokesperson, Mali Mtima, said the department had launched an investigation into the matter. Mtima said: “An investigation was launched by the department and now is in its final phase as the province will issue charges to the affected parties in preparation for a disciplinary hearing. In the meantime, we are facilitating a process that will ensure that both teachers are placed in different schools while an internal team-building session is on the cards to promote working together and restoration of trust among the colleagues and the school management.
“Both processes are meant to ensure school stability and functionality which will ensure that neither teaching nor learning are compromised in the process as the school is primarily a centre for education and community development. We therefore promise to bring the school back to its original glory, working with all education stakeholders namely the SGB, members of society and labour unions and not excluding the pupils and teachers of the school.