Teachers protest principal’s appointment
Several teachers at the Onampira Combined School in the Omusati Region have suspended classes indefinitely to protest the questionable circumstances under which the new school principal was appointed.
Since Monday, some 15 teachers - 12 from Secondary level and three from lower primary - decided to dust their blackboards and boycotted lessons until the current principal, Willem Sheende, is shown the door and the right procedures are followed in appointing a new principal.
According to the teachers, the Ministry of Education on July 27, 2011 advertised the post for a new principal of the Onampira Combined School after the previous school head, Valerianus Tshitayi, retired.
Although a many applications were received for the post and candidates were short-listed, no interviews were conducted after the Omusati Regional Director of Education, Anna Mwifi-Nghipondoka, and the Etayi Circuit Inspector Hans Shikongo stepped in and announced that Sheende would be appointed as the new school head.
Sheende, the former principal of Oshivanda Combined School in the Omusati Region, is said to be the circuit inspector´s close friend and never applied for the post he has been occupying for over three weeks.
"This is a clear case of favouritism. You can´t advertise a position and appoint someone else before you’ve even conducted interviews. It is better for the post to be re-advertised and the right procedures followed," said one teacher.
The School Board has also joined the fray and has written a letter to Mwifi-Nghipondoka demanding that all those short-listed be interviewed to choose the best candidate for the position.
The teachers on strike - mainly languages, mathematics and history teachers - also alleged victimisation from Tshitayi, claiming that the retired principal a fortnight ago called a parents´ meeting to campaign for the new principal.
Although only six parents turned up for the meeting, Tshitayi carried out a propaganda campaign against those trying to topple Sheende and maintained that those teachers don´t have the learners´ best interest at heart.
"Right now the school is divided into two groups; those supporting the new principal out of loyalty to the former principal and those of us who want a transparent process and procedures followed," another teacher explained.
Speaking to Namibian Sun yesterday, Sheende said he was not in a position to comment on his appointment, but that he was `trying to manage the situation´.
"I did not appoint myself, so I´m not the right person to comment on that. It is very unfortunate that most of those affected by this are the junior secondary to senior secondary grades, but we are managing the situation," insisted Sheende.
He, however, downplayed the number of teachers on strike, saying only nine out of a staff complement of 32 were boycotting lessons at a school with an enrollment of 791 learners.
"It´s only individual teachers who teach few subjects, so we are trying to make the best of the situation," said Sheende, between lengthy calls on his mobile phone.
When contacted for comment, Mwifi-Nghipondoka remained tight-lipped and said she too was not in a position to make any comments to the media as the matter is currently being investigated by Ministry of Education Permanent Secretary Alfred Ilukena.
"I, myself, submitted to the PS my own investigation, so I cannot comment about that right now," is all Mwifi-Nghipondoka was willing to say on the matter.