Double standards

Zaida Julius, public liaison officer, Progressive Principals’ Association

Our belief was strong that those in charge of employee relation in education would understand the context of our public schools and would act with a balance of rule and reality.

The PPA is an organisation servicing the educational needs and challenges of the poor.

We are also an organisation acting as a watchdog to ensure the equitable distribution of wealth and resources to all, especially the marginalised communities.

Mr Isaacs’s contribution to education is well documented and his contribution to the upliftment of education of the economically marginalised in our province is well known.

Mr Isaacs is a shining example of a committed, passionate and hardworking teacher-principal who has earned the respect of his colleagues, pupils and members of the education fraternity at large.

He has sacrificed family and friends in the pursuit of excellence.

We know him as a tireless fighter for justice in education who never hesitates to walk the proverbial extra mile for pupils and peers.

We are taken aback at the manner in which his “purported misdemeanours” were handled by the education authorities.

There seemed to have been a lack of insight/foresight when Mr Isaacs’s case was handled.

Mr Isaacs has been a star player for the Western Cape Education Department for many years and deserves to have been treated in a more dignified manner when the charges emerged.

Would it not have been in the interest of all, if a senior official had approached
Mr Isaacs and discussed his grievances and frustrations in a more civil manner?

Frustrations which frequent all our public schools: infrastructure of schools, discipline of pupils, labour issues, security and safety and longwinded protocol.

There are many frustrated principals out there who are at their wits’ ends trying to keep the public school system afloat. Many policies inhibit principals and teachers from exercising discipline in an expedient way.

The extra burden of principals is taking them away from their core duty which is to elevate the academic quality of the pupils in their care.

We are aware of many incidences where principals and teachers were charged for more serious offences and received lesser sanctions. This is documented and evidenced for referencing.

The whole Isaacs saga reeks of double standards and inconsistencies which places the credibility of labour relations in question.

The PPA approached the head of education (Western Cape) at the end of 2015 to establish a senior committee attached to her office, with one of its functions being to intervene when principals and teachers are faced with impending disciplinary action.

We foresaw such a committee to advise the HoD about the seriousness of misdemeanours and whether the laying of charges would be the ideal route.

This suggestion was acknowledged but was never put into practice. Many of the charges against principals and teachers could have been averted through professional mediation

in the best interest of uninterrupted learning.

It is our fervent desire that all stakeholders in this wonderful profession would see the importance of maintaining the integrity of our teaching corps. If the necessary respect is afforded to our teachers by all those interested in education this would have a greater impact on their performance in the classroom. We are not for a moment justifying unprofessional or unjust behaviour against children but cases should be treated on merit and there needs to be a consistent approach when dealing with errant teachers/principals.

We appeal to the WCED, principals’ associations, teacher unions and NGOs to assist in formulating an approach to the disciplinary procedures of teachers/principals, especially those who face more challenges due to environmental factors afflicted to “poorer” public schools. These principals and teachers go beyond their call of duty to effect change in these challenging communities. Policies which impede teachers and principals from delivering their core function should be revisited.

We shall remain positive that sanity will prevail and we can implant and entrench the desired values of free speech, respect for diverse views and tolerance for diversity in our children, schools, educational departments and stakeholders in education.

Thousands have sacrificed for this democracy, let us utilise all democratic organs to bring about justice for all. We humbly appeal to the authorities to revisit the Isaacs case which would result in his reinstatement.

BLOB Bronag Casey, from the Western Cape Education Department’s communications directorate, responds: This is a labour relations management issue. In addition, the MEC is currently considering the second appeal from Mr Isaacs on another set of charges.