More than 500 learners at Omundudu Combined School were withdrawn by their parents pending investigations and a hearing into the alleged misconduct involving two senior staff accused of contravening the Public Service Act of 1995.
Those under investigation include the school's principal who has since been temporarily transferred to the circuit office and a head of department, who is reportedly refusing to be transferred to allow for investigations. In March, education ministry executive director Sanet Steenkamp charged the duo with misconduct. Subsequently, they were transferred from the school to different duty stations, with the principal taking up the offer at the circuit office.
However, the head of department refused to be transferred, citing unfairness in the process.
Steenkamp yesterday confirmed learners were sent home, saying this was triggered by the unconducive teaching and learning environment at the school as a result of the standoff involving the teacher who is defying the transfer directive.
"Both the teacher and the principal were charged for misconduct and have disciplinary cases against them. There were several meetings where the staff member was engaged and she was given three options of different schools to choose from. She refused," Steenkamp said.
Steenkamp said the teacher allegedly continued coming to the school, despite her being removed from the teaching timetable.
"The staff member to date still refuses the written instruction from the ED, who has the prerogative, in terms of Public Service Act, No. 13 of 1995, to transfer a staff member to ensure a conducive environment at a school. The staff member contributed greatly to the breakdown of trust and a safe school environment, and a non-conducive learning environment," she noted.
Further, she stated, various meetings, interventions and discussions took place and the parents and school board have been urging the education ministry to take the required action against the staff member, whom they apparently do not wish to remain at the school.
This, she said, prompted parents and the school board to send learners home yesterday until a solution is found. Teachers will, however, continue coming to school.
Steenkamp said she has instructed the Ohangwena education regional director to obtain a restraining order against the said teacher to avoid her entering the school premises until investigations are completed.
The Teachers Union of Namibia, which is representing the teacher, feels any public official who is mandated by any law to make a decision must do so in conformity with article 18 of the Namibian constitution.
"The decision must be fair, just and reasonable not to favour one party at the expense of the other. If an administration decision is made which is aimed to undermine the dignity of our members, we have the right to intervene. The member doesn't have a problem to adhere to the ED letter if she could be given a place that will not expose her since she is not found guilty yet," TUN secretary general Mahongora Kavihuha reacted.
As a union, Kavihuha promised to engage Steenkamp to try to find an amicable solution to the standoff, which they "believe is not insurmountable". A meeting with the school management, board and parents has been called for 08h00 this morning.