South Africa

R10m school probe ‘implicates’ bigwigs

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As the raging scandal over the alleged embezzlement of R10 million, allegedly involving a KwaDukathole Comprehensive School principal in Katlehong, Ekurhuleni, continued to add to the provincial government woes, the Gauteng department of education yesterday conceded it was aware of and concerned about the allegations.

Slamming what he described as “looted funds” budgeted for the refurbishment of the school – forcing hundreds of pupils to learn in overcrowded and dilapidated classrooms – Democratic Alliance (DA) Gauteng shadow MEC for education Sergio dos Santos has called for the department’s urgent intervention.

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Education’s spokesperson Steve Mabona said the department viewed allegations levelled against principal “in a serious light”.

“We have launched the necessary investigation and the outcome thereof will determine action to be taken,” he said.

“The department is committed to clean governance, transparency and oversight. “We will deal with any threats that will affect service delivery and the provision of quality education,” said Mabona.

Dos Santos said the alleged school graft – the latest to hit the department – was “the brazen abuse of funds”. “Nothing was done to intervene,” said Dos Santos.

“The misuse of public funds in the school has resulted in a shortage of desks and chairs – as well as overcrowding of prefab classrooms, with each having 60 pupils.

“This is a far cry from the average pupil-to-teacher ratio of 31.4 – projected in the 2022 medium-term budget policy statement.

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“It is concerning that the chair of the school governing body (SGB) and the principal – who should be advocating for the improvement of the school to a conducive teaching and learning environment – are implicated in the misuse of the funds.”

He said the KwaDukathole situation “not only disrupts the infrastructural development at the school, but also jeopardises the pupils’ academic performance”.

“There has to be a correlation between the poor infrastructure in this school and the matric results dropping from 88% in 2021 to 66.2% in 2023,” he added.

“The DA demands that the Gauteng department of education and relevant law enforcement agencies accelerate the investigation into this matter.

“Those found guilty of financial mismanagement should be held accountable – rather than resurfacing in another school because of their proximity to those in the department.

“We will this week conduct an oversight inspection at the school to assess the state of learning, teaching and the infrastructure.

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“We also want to determine how the mismanagement of school funds is impacting the delivery of quality education.”

The DA reiterated its call for parents to “elect responsible individuals with education at heart to be part of SGB committees, who will contribute positively to the improvement of the learning and teaching environment”.

Education expert Mary Metcalfe urged the department to investigate the alleged theft of school funds.

“My understanding is that for substantial infrastructure like classrooms, the department manages the fund. The norms and standards funding that quintile 1-3 schools get, is for minor infrastructure, including maintenance,” said Metcalfe.

Provincial officials are believed to aware of the alleged theft and abuse of school funds.