A MAHATSHULA Primary School teacher has been suspended after photographs showing 130 Early Childhood Development (ECD) and Grade Zero pupils crammed in one classroom during their rest time were leaked to Southern Eye in June.
Thando Manga Ngwenya yesterday told Southern Eye that she had been assigned to take pictures of Grade Zero pupils and she was surprised that the school authorities now took offence over the pictures and blamed her for leaking them to the media in what they claimed was a violation of the children’s rights.
Ngwenya, who has now left the country for South Africa, said it was, in fact, the school that was violating the children’s rights by placing such a big number of children in one classroom.
Southern Eye published the picture of the pupils on June 26.
A letter of suspension written by Mahatshula Primary School Parents Teachers’ Association (PTA) vice-chairperson Oscar Ncube and handed to Ngwenya on July 15 reads: “Following our investigations on the allegation that you photographed ECD pupils of Mahatshula Primary School without authority (and) later the photos were published in the Southern Eye edition of June 26, you are hereby charged on the following — violation of your employment conditions of assisting in teaching and protecting of the children.
You are, therefore, requested to respond to the above allegations within seven days. Your suspension has, therefore, been extended for a further 14 days.”
Ngwenya was initially suspended after the photos were published. She was summoned to appear before a disciplinary committee on August 13.
However, Ngwenya in her response, wrote: “The executive misdirected itself through purported suspension of me as contained in the said submitted letter that such suspension is unlawful for lack of jurisdiction and, therefore, I demand immediate reinstatement and back pay thereto.”
She said as a member of the Civil Service Commission, the PTA had no power to suspend or pursue disciplinary proceedings against her.
“Relevant law Section 42 of the Statutory Instrument Act 1 of 2000 clearly states that the ministry (of Primary and Seconday Education) responsible for teachers is the only authority vested with the power to pursue disciplinary proceedings against me.
“Section 42 states that the disciplinary authority for determining allegations of misconduct by a member shall be in the case of confirmed member in a grade, other than a senior grade, the head of the ministry.
The PTA is not a department of the Ministry of Education, hence it has no power whatsoever of suspending a teacher or conduct any hearing pursuant to the said suspension,” Ngwenya wrote.
“I am, therefore, demanding immediate reinstatement and back pay. If there is any allegation of misconduct on my part, a proper body must do so and not the PTA.
“Failure to that, I will institute legal proceedings against the PTA as I cannot stand and watch unfair labour practice being perpetrated against me by the body which must uphold fair labour practices.
It is, therefore, futile to answer to charges that are laid by an incompetent body.”
Ngwenya said the PTA mentioned that other four teachers were being charged over the leaked photographs.
“I have told them that if I violated the Constitution, the matter must then be handled by the courts, but they insisted that I must come for the hearing on August 13, but I am not going because as I speak I am in South Africa looking for a job,” she said.
“I cannot be tried by an illegal disciplinary committee. If they claim that I violated children’s rights I wonder who between me and the school violated the rights; the one who took pupils’ photos, or the one who crammed 130 pupils and six teachers in one room.”
Ngwenya said on July 27 she went to the school and was escorted out of the premises and later falsely reported at Queens Park Police Stations for making threats. No comment could be obtained from Ncube while the school remained mum on the issue.