By Kavisha Pillay
Teachers, and especially those who blow the whistle on corruption in their schools, are our heroes for today, as we prepare to mark World Teachers Day, 5 October. Proclaimed by Unesco in 1994, it is a day to appreciate the vital contribution teachers make to the development of young minds across the globe and to honour the individuals who inspire values and instil good ethical standards in our youth.
The theme for this year’s celebration is “A call for teachers”, which is a call for quality education for all, as this offers hope and the promise of a better standard of living.
An important component of a quality education is a system free of corruption and staffed with well-trained, motivated educators. At Corruption Watch, we are particularly fond of those extraordinary teachers who risk their jobs and personal wellbeing to blow the whistle on graft at their school. We take our hats off to the brave individuals who not only educate our children but go beyond what is required to ensure that future generations are able to learn in an environment that is corruption-free.
Although CW receives reports that implicate teachers in corrupt activity, the organisation also receives complaints from teachers who are keen to hold those in power to account for wrongdoing.
A group that stands out for CW are the teachers from Thubelihle Primary School in White City, Soweto. In February 2013, a group of eight members from the teaching staff reported their principal, Nonzwakazi Usiba, to CW in the hope of exposing the corrupt relationship between Usiba and the former school governing body chairman, Isaac Ngwenya.
CW investigated the allegations and commissioned a forensic probe into the school’s finances. The investigation led to evidence of fraud being uncovered and pointed fingers directly at Usiba and Ngwenya. Read the full story here.
CW shared the forensic report with the Gauteng Department of Education and later reported the matter to the local police for further investigation. The case is presently with the Commercial Crimes Unit, and the principal, who attempted to wriggle herself out of the rot by resigning, was forced by the department to keep her post until the investigation is complete. She has now been suspended.
This is a clear victory for the teachers and parents of Thubelihle Primary School who can rest assured that Usiba will be held to account for her actions.
Role models for the next generation
Teachers are strong role models and many people out there are lucky enough to have that one teacher that they will never forget; the teacher who motivated us to be better or inspired a love for a certain subject. Bold teachers who blow the whistle on corruption and seek to uphold transparency and accountability are the perfect example of strong role models, not only for the children of their schools, but for other teachers worldwide.
An attitude of integrity must be inculcated early in life and teachers play a hugely important role in this. Children who see their teachers engaging in corrupt activities will grow up believing that it’s acceptable behaviour, while those who are firmly steered away from wrongdoing and taught to act with honour will one day have the world in their hands.
CW commends teachers who are taking a stand against corruption by making it their duty to monitor how finances are spent at their schools, as well as being proactive in reporting incidences of graft. We encourage and challenge more teachers to do the same!
So, to the custodians of our children’s education, we salute you for your bravery and valour in upholding a good principle in our schools.