By Corruption Watch reporters
Our heroes this week are the brave teachers at Thubelihle Intermediate school in Soweto who contacted Corruption Watch at the beginning of this year to report appalling financial governance at their school, which was robbing learners of their Constitutional right to a quality education.
Corruption Watch investigated the allegations and commissioned a forensic probe into the school’s financial affairs. The result was a damning report detailing grave fraud and misconduct by the principal and ex-school governing body head. Read the full article here.
The district office of Gauteng’s education department has now recognised this, and pledged to intervene. For their vigilance and proactivity in fighting such gross abuse of public resources, these educators at Thubelihle have earned the honour of heroes for the week.
When the teachers approached Corruption Watch, they expressed how they were being undermined by the principal, Nonzwakazi Usiba, and former school governing body (SGB) chair Isaac Ngwenya.
“We are continuously told that our place is in the classroom, that’s where we should focus our attention,” they said.
“Every time we ask the principal for stationery and other learning material, she always says that the school has no money. We find this statement unacceptable because there is nothing to show for what the money was spent on.”
The teachers told Corruption Watch that their troubles with the principal started about a year ago, last winter to be exact, when they asked the principal to renovate the school buildings and install new windows and doors, to keep out the cold.
“How can you teach children when they are shivering inside a classroom?” asked one teacher.
The principal told the teachers the school had no money to fix the doors and windows, and that’s when they started questioning its financial affairs. They were particularly interested in how the school’s budget was being spent and where donations from Norway, amounting to R367 000 over three years, were going to.
Once Corruption Watch had completed its investigation and the commissioned forensic-report findings were made known, the district office of the Gauteng education department contacted Corruption Watch offering to assist in normalising the school. Corruption Watch felt duty-bound to hand a copy of the forensic report to the district office to take swift action.
“This is not an uncommon occurrence. We devoted significant resources to investigating these allegations,” said Corruption Watch’s executive director David Lewis.
“While we would not be able to repeat this in respect of all allegations of schools corruption made to us, what is clear is that vigilant teachers, learners and parents could themselves ensure that school resources are spent for advancing education rather than for the private gratification of a few people.”
For their part, the teachers were delighted at the findings of the forensic report, saying they were thrilled that Corruption Watch had managed to find concrete proof of financial misconduct at the school. They could no longer sit and watch as their school “was going down to the dogs”, they said.
“Our learners have suffered enough over the years because of this principal and it is high time we stand up as teachers and do something about it,” added one.