By Valencia Talane

Nepotism, stealing public money and extortion: not really the crimes you’d associate with institutions of learning, but they’re crippling many of our country’s public schools – as recent reports from concerned teachers, parents and community members shows.

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Corruption Watch has recorded an upsurge in reports about corruption in schools recently, showing growing public awareness of our campaign to crackdown on this type of graft.

Following print coverage and radio interviews with executive director David Lewis and deputy Bongi Mlangeni since early this year, teachers, parents and community members have come out in growing numbers to expose the rot that has been paralysing their schools, in some cases for many years.

Some whistleblowers, who had already reported their cases to their district education offices, have told us of their despondency because little or no action has been taken.

Most reports we get about schools implicate principals and their alleged abuse of power, interference in tender processes and hiding important financial information from school governing bodies (SGBs) and parents.

Members of SGBs are also often implicated, with reports of individuals abusing school resources, or turning a blind eye when administrators loot school funds.

“The complaints we receive indicate that corrupt behaviour is driving some of the problems experienced in schools, such as lack of textbooks and infrastructure delivery. This is one type of corruption whose effects shall be felt for years as children face the consequences of learning in schools that hinder, rather than support their growth,” says Corruption Watch’s Mlangeni.

Whistleblower victimised, principal rigs tender

In one KwaZulu-Natal high school it is alleged that the principal spent R240 000 on stationery and learning material which, two years after the deal was signed, has still not been delivered.

According to the contract with the school, the service provider was responsible for supplying textbooks and other resources.

The whistleblower, who is a teacher at the school, claims that he was forced to ask parents to step in and buy the missing textbooks as the learners’ education was at stake. The contractor is thought to be a close associate of the principal.

Moving to the Eastern Cape, the parents at a no-fees school appealed to Corruption Watch for help, claiming the principal was asking them to cough up the money they had been exempt by law from paying. He allegedly told parents he would see to it that their social grants were cut off if they didn’t acquiesce. 

The Eastern Cape principal’s abuse of power is not the first of its kind to be exposed through Corruption Watch’s channels – earlier this year we responded to a report by a concerned community member: a Mpumalanga principal reportedly masterminded a burglary at his school and got learners to take the rap. The two youngsters are now facing charges of theft and possible criminal records, and one has already dropped out of the school due to the humiliation inflicted by his fellow classmates.

A teacher in the Northern Cape reported to us about being victimised by the principal and a district official, who are allegedly involved in a web of corrupt activities, including appointing unqualified staff and manipulating financial statements. The reporter also claims they have links to a dubious scholar transport contract.

Despite having turned to unions for help, the desperate whistleblower alleges nothing has been done about the two officials. According to the provincial department’s performance assessment, the whistleblower qualifies as a permanent teacher, but has allegedly been denied this post by the principal – a probable link to her speaking out.

What is evident from these reports and the many others we’ve received, is that the real victims aren’t just learners who are denied quality education, but broader communities too who are increasingly having to support a generation of wronged youngsters. Take a stand and make your voice heard – report knowledge of corruption in schools here.

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Excerpt
Nepotism, stealing public money and extortion: not really the crimes you’d associate with institutions of learning, but they’re crippling many of our country’s public schools – as the recent spike in reports from concerned teachers, parents and community members shows.