Setting the record straight

Brandon de Kock, treasurer, Heathfield High School Governing Body

We, the school governing body of Heathfield High School, feel compelled to respond to the inaccuracies presented by the spin-doctor of the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), Bronagh Hammond, as published in the Cape Argus on November 26.

In an article to the Southern Mail on October 7, Ms Hammond categorically stated that the Head of Department (HOD) Brian Schreuder did not issue instructions to the principal of Heathfield High School to issue letters to the matric parents for all learners to return to school with immediate effect. She stated that this instruction was never issued.

Her lies and spinning have a habit of coming back to bite the liar. We are in possession of a copy of the original letter to the community newspaper where she states that Mr Schreuder never issued an instruction to that effect; now in the Cape Argus she states that such an instruction was issued.

Ms Hammond has a history of twisting the facts to suit her employer’s narrow political agenda. We call on her moral conscience to not mislead the honest people of the Western Cape with her lies! As a public servant, she is duty-bound to serve the interests of the people of the Western Cape and not her political bosses.

Furthermore, it is by time Bronagh Hammond leaves her comfortable office and comes and spends a week at a township school to gain first-hand experience to be able to report knowledge about matters pertaining to education on the ground.

We won’t be surprised if she later claims that this offer was never made to her. Tell no lies, claim no easy victories, Bronagh Hammond.

For the record, the head of education still refuses to meet with the school governing body.

Bronagh Hammond, WCED spokesperson, responds: The ministry has no record of an invitation being received to meet with the SGB.

The decision by the national government to reopen public schools post the Covid hard lockdown on June 1 was rational, constitutional and based on solid expert medical advice, as determined by the high court in Gauteng. Along with all others, the educators and Grade 12 learners at Heathfield High were required to return to school on the gazetted date of June 1.

Various officials engaged with Mr Neumann attempting to persuade him to reopen the school, or keep it open for those learners that, according to national directions, were required to attend school. Mr Neumann continued to actively participate in a campaign against the reopening of schools. In this process, parents of the school were informed “Not to send their children to school”.

The WCED was informed by various interested parties , including parents, that Grade 12 learners had not attended school for some time.

During the week’s short break for Grade 12’s in July, the Head of Department (HOD) wrote to Mr Neumann stating the following:

“Grade12 is the culmination of the career of every learner. Some reach this milestone by overcoming severe personal and socio-economic obstacles. Consequently, it is the department’s responsibility to ensure that each learner, not only in Grade 12, makes a success of his/her school career. The face-to-face engagement of a teacher with learners remains critical in the pedagogical enterprise which this department will protect at all cost.”

“The HOD reminded Mr Neumann that the Grade 12s had lost teaching time during lockdown and that the remaining teaching time was essential in preparation for their final examinations. Mr Neumann was thus instructed to ensure that every “Grade 12 learner and their parents/guardians are informed, in writing, of the requirement that every Grade 12 learner must physically be at school every day of the week, from 3 August 2020, until the start of their final NSC examinations”.

Mr Neumann was also advised that directives had been received from the director-general of the Department of Basic Education, which urged the provincial government to implement disciplinary procedures where educators refused to report for duty.

Mr Neumann failed to comply with the deadline to inform parents as such. Instead he responded by addressing a hostile and defamatory letter to the HOD, which he elected to copy to “All media houses”.

After additional correspondence the department informed Mr Neumann of charges that are being brought against him, including that of failing to carry out a lawful instruction of the employer, committing misconduct by allegedly encouraging personnel to not report for duty and discouraging the attendance of learners via social media platforms, and for prejudicing the administration, discipline or efficiency of the WCED, by distributing disrespectful pictures and /or videos on Facebook.

Mr Neumann subsequently sought an urgent interdict just days before his disciplinary hearing was scheduled to commence, to prevent the disciplinary hearing. He has now lost that application and the WCED will let the relevant processes run so as to enable a presiding officer to decide on the merits of the matter, based on the facts and the law in this regard.