A Mpumalanga principal who left the school in a huff following allegations of incompetence has been accused of taking full salary and credit at the expense of his hard-working colleagues.
Lamulelani High School principal Erick Malekane left the school in 2019, allegedly after falling out with parents over the school’s poor performance.
They had asked him to devise a strategy to improve the pass rate and enrolment number that repeatedly slumped.
School Governing Body (SGB) Chairperson Justice Mkhonto said they were not pleased that Malekane continued to draw a salary and take accolades for the school’s successes four years after setting foot there.
He said the SGB brought in a caretaker principal, Willie Mhlanga, who stabilized and improved the school’s performance free of charge for four years.
Mkhonto accused the Mpumalanga Department of Education of allowing Malekane to run the school remotely without knowing what happened on the ground, and rewarding him with a full salary.
“We are told that Malekane is reporting at the Circuit, which means he runs the school remotely without knowing what is happening on the ground. Our problem is that the department has been failing to resolve this problem for four years which subjected other people to work as slaves. The school has been operating without the principal for so many years,” Mkhonto said.
“What happened is that the parents and the teachers asked him to come up with a strategy that would enable the school to improve. Instead of apologizing and table the strategy, he took his belongings and went home. The parents and the community members accused me of protecting him, and I left the school as well, but later, I was asked to return to the school, and I agreed. All he was asked to do was to apologize for the school’s poor performance and come up with a plan, but he decided to leave.
A reliable source within the school said that the provincial education department wanted to close the school on the ground that it was situated far from the communities that it serves, but community members, the SGB, and the teachers objected, “which led to the sabotage that we see today”.
“Malekane was used to sabotage the school by making sure that it performs poorly so that the enrolment rate will go down, which would enable the department to shut down the school. All the crisis that is happening there is orchestrated by the regional offices of the Department of Education.
All they want is to close down this iconic school which produced many professionals who contribute immensely to the economy of the country,” said the source.
The Public Protector in Mpumalanga is investigating the department for failing to pay the salaries of six Lamulelani High School teachers for more than a year. The Chapter 9 body also probes why the department failed to rebuild the burnt classrooms during a service delivery protest in 2018.
The source claimed the decision not to pay the salaries and rebuild classrooms was part of the plot to sabotage the school.
When asked why he left the school, Malekane refused to comment and referred Sunday World to the Mpumalanga Department of Education.
“If you want to know how I left the school and everything relating to that, I suggest that you contact the department because I’m not allowed to talk to the media,” he said.
Mhlanga, the school’s acting principal, also refused to discuss the matters relating to his school.
“Remember last week you contacted me about an issue concerning the school, and I directed you to relevant people within the provincial office. Please check with them again,” said Mhlanga.
Recent pictures of the school seen by Sunday World paint a picture of a neglected and dilapidated school. One image shows pupils learning under a tree, while pit toilets used by learners and teachers can be seen in another. A third picture shows a group of pupils celebrating the 85% matric pass rate obtained by the school in 2022.
Mpumalanga Department of Education spokesperson Jasper Zwane said the SGB and some community members “displaced” Malekane for reasons that could not be substantiated.
“The department made repeated attempts to have the principal reinstated, but these attempts have been rejected. In the meantime, he is reporting daily at the Circuit Office and from time to time, he is assigned some tasks to perform.
“The deputy principal of Lamulelani Secondary School is not receiving an acting allowance because the principal post is not vacant. There is an incumbent for the post, but some members of the school community are making it difficult for him to execute his tasks,” Zwane said.
He added that the Mpumalanga Department of Education wanted the SBG and community members to work together to “restore stability” and act in the best interests of the learners.
“The Department is more than willing to work with the community and the School Governing body to achieve this goal.”