The first week of the academic year got off to a rocky start at a Dunoon primary school when pupils’ parents locked the principal out.
City law enforcement officers were called in on Friday morning after a crowd blocked Mlungisi Fani from entering the grounds of Silverleaf Primary.
Law enforcement spokesman Wayne Dyason said SAPS had dispersed the crowd. Parents and the school governing body have clashed repeatedly with Mr Fani, accusing him of, among other things, verbally abusing staff and having an affair with a fellow teacher — allegations Mr Fani has previously denied (“Parents, teachers turn on principal,” Tabletalk, November 22, 2017).
Approached for comment last week, Mr Fani told us to direct our questions to the Western Cape Education Department.
The governing body’s deputy chairwoman, Caroline Skhweyiya, claimed things had boiled over because Mr Fani had told parents they could not enter the school grounds on the first day of school.
“Mr Fani told parents that they were not allowed to enter with their children and that they should say their goodbyes at the front gate and leave their children with the security. Tell me how this is something that we can allow?
“What if the child has a condition that the parent needs to explain to the teacher? What if the child takes medication?
This is just one of the reasons why we feel this man is poison in our school and community at large,” said Ms Skhweyiya.
Ms Skhweyiya also accused Mr Fani of being uninterested in helping an eight-year-old boy who had not been picked up from school on Wednesday.
“I called the principal to let him know about the situation, and he simply said that it wasn’t his problem and that he has gone and left the child with the security guard.
“I took the child with me that night and he slept in my home,” she said.
“The next day, we were able to locate the child’s parent,” said Ms Skhweyiya.
About 150 parents and members of the governing body had met at the school entrance on Thursday, the day before the lock-out, to discuss the issue.
Governing body chairman Lungile Mdayi said Mr Fani was no longer welcome at the school and accused him of misusing school funds.
“We were meant to have a fully-functional play area on the school grounds with a jungle gym, swings etc. It was also meant to have fencing around it but only half of the work is done. Yet, he forced us to sign off on the R50 000 deposit and the remaining R40 000 in December to a guy he had hired to do the work.
“The rest of the work is still not done, but the money is paid. We suspect that he and that man he hired are in cahoots and have shared the money that was meant to finish the job,” he said.
However, Western Cape Education Department spokeswoman Jessica Shelver, said it was the governing body, and not the principal, that the department was investigating for alleged financial misconduct.
She also condemned the governing body for denying Mr Fani entry to the school and accused it of disrupting learning.
“The refusal to allow for teaching and learning is not acceptable. Learners should not be the victims of the current dispute between the principal and the SGB.
“The school was closed on Friday after parents, led by the SGB, chased learners from the school. Their actions are very unfortunate as it has affected the learners directly. The principal has raised a number of concerns regarding the conduct of the SGB on certain matters and informed them of this in a letter delivered to them on Thursday. The SGB unfortunately reacted to the letter by shutting down the school,” she said.