Parents, teachers turn on principal

Silverleaf Primary school has been the battleground for the past couple of weeks between parents and the principal.

The principal of a new Dunoon primary school has been in the job for less than a year, but he is already facing a revolt from parents who have called for his head.

They have accused Mlungisi Fani of being a verbally abusive tyrant and having an affair with a teacher.

But Mr Fani has denied any wrongdoing, saying he is being subjected to a “kangaroo court”. The Western Cape Education Department has also confirmed that Mr Fani is not under investigation.

Silverleaf Primary opened in January last year, and Mr Fani was appointed principal on April 1 this year.

But two meetings held at the school this month have seen calls for his removal. The first meeting, on Wednesday November 8, was attended by about 25 parents united in their unhappiness with Mr Fani.

Parents said they were hearing from their children that Mr Fani belittled teachers in front of their pupils, swearing at them and telling them he was the boss if they complained. They also accused Mr Fani of having an affair with a teacher.

Meanwhile, a teacher, who did not want to be identified, told Tabletalk that staff were unhappy that they were still working on contract and had little job security.

Sixolise Sawe, a parent of three children at Silverleaf Primary, is among those who want Mr Fani sacked. She said he set a poor example for his teaching staff and pupils

“He is very arrogant. And the affair he is said to be having with one of the teachers is well known – even by the children.”

A behind-closed-doors meeting between school governing body members and Mr Fani followed on Friday November 10, and then, on Tuesday November 14, another meeting was held – this one was considerably more heated and was attended by about 40 people, including parents, some governing body members, about four teachers and Mr Fani himself.

It was called to give the principal a chance to answer the allegations that had been levelled at him.

Mr Fani denied having an affair, saying both he and the teacher he was supposed to be having the affair with were married.

Tempers flared though after Mr Fani denied calling for a teacher who had collapsed, while apparently appealing to him to make her post permanent, to be taken out of his office because it was “not a hospital”.

It was at this point that kitchen staffer Thandazo Platyi stood up abruptly and accused the principal of lying. “I was asked, along with another person, to get a mattress so she wouldn’t be left lying on the cold hard floor. When we came back, the principal said we should get her out of his office because this is not a hospital. He must stop lying, saying that he didn’t say that,” said Ms Platyi.

This prompted a reaction from some of the parents who started howling at Mr Fani.

He responded, saying, “I will accept all the allegations against me. But the Lord is my witness, and he knows the truth.” In a later phone conversation with Tabletalk, Mr Fani said he could not speak to the media about the allegations as he was a WCED employee and we should approach it for comment.

However, he noted that no formal complaints had been lodged against him.

“I believe that if people really had an issue with my practices, they would have laid formal complaints with the department. What I have been subjected to is a kangaroo court scenario, where I was handed handwritten letters and basically forced to admit to the allegations in those letters.”

WCED spokesman Paddy Attwell, said the department had received neither formal nor informal complaints about Mr Fani.

The department, he added, planned to fill all the teaching positions at the school with permanent appointments.

“We do this in various ways, including the normal advertising and recruitment process. We may also convert teachers’ temporary status to permanent in certain cases, in line with the relevant legislation,” he said.