School principal suspended for conducting classes in the toilets

A North West school principal has been suspended after he allegedly ordered teachers to conduct lessons in the restrooms.

The Nthapeleng Primary School principal was placed on a five-day special leave a week ago after the department of education in the province learned that teaching was being conducted in toilets.

Following an investigation, the department this week confirmed that the principal has been placed on suspension.

As learning was being conducted in restrooms with flushing toilets, this meant that the learners at Nthapeleng Primary School, based in Motolong village outside Taung, were subjected to relieving themselves in ventilated improved pit (VIP) toilets.

Disciplinary hearing pending

The department said the principal had taken the decision to conduct classes in the toilets without informing it, resulting in his suspension while he awaits a disciplinary hearing.

The matter was exposed when schools reopened in January, and the department rushed to the school to ensure that grade 4 and 5 learners, who were placed in toilets, were back in their classrooms.

Speaking on behalf of the North West Department of Education, Mphata Molokwane stated that the restrooms have not yet been used because the project is still awaiting an assessment report from the infrastructure units to determine whether or not they can be used.

The school still uses VIP toilets while awaiting the report.

Molokwane emphasised that Nthapeleng Primary School, with 211 students, five teachers, and seven classrooms, was not overcrowded, despite the principal’s assertion that he used the restrooms due to a shortage of space.

Monitoring the situation

Each classroom carries an average of 20 learners, with the largest classroom accommodating 34 learners.

Nthapeleng is a multi-grade teaching school, which is a department-approved policy for smaller schools.

Nevertheless, according to Molokwane, the principal is not permitted to turn classrooms into restrooms, despite this practice being approved.

He said the department is highly committed to ensuring a safe and conductive learning environment and will continue to monitor the situation at Nthapeleng to ensure that all departmental policies and procedures are being followed.

The principal has also been blamed for headhunting and hiring teachers from local schools without informing the department.

“As the department, we humbly apologise to our communities for the inhumane manner in which the principal conducted the classes on the first day of reopening.

“We would like our communities to keep the department updated with the things that are happening in their areas where schools are based,” said Molokwane.

Expel the principal

The president of the South African Union of Learners, Oratile Levuno, advised the department to stop going around in circles and instead fire the principal to demonstrate how serious the situation is.

“I reject the decision of the North West department of basic education provincial team not to strike off the principal from the roll,” said Levuno.

“We are calling on the minister of basic education and the director-general to take responsibility and further call on SAHRC [South African Human Rights Commission] to take charge of the matter because the livelihoods of our young people are being compromised.” 

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