New turn in school standoff

Community claims SGB stealing food from nutrition programme and feeding children the dregs

A standoff between the black and coloured communities of Paterson took a new turn yesterday, with parents accusing members of the Sandisulwazi High School governing body of benefiting from school funds.

The accusations levelled against the SGB members include serving rotten and substandard food through the school’s nutrition programme, taking school food for themselves, nepotism, as well as mismanagement of school funds and equipment.

The parents have also accused two SGB members, Alfred Salters and Isaac van Louw, of rallying the town’s coloured community to close Moreson Primary School.

But Salters and Van Louw vehemently denied the allegations yesterday and welcomed a probe of the SGB and its dealings, saying everything was aboveboard.

Yesterday marked the second day that Moreson Primary School was closed after coloured residents called for the removal of the school’s principal, Sandiswa Shwempe.

This follows the forced removal of Leon Zealand as the principal of Sandisulwazi High School on May 5.

One parent, Siphokazi Matinise, said: “The department must come and investigate the [Sandisulwazi] SGB and we want Moreson to be opened.

“These people are fighting for their own benefit.

“If they were interested in education why are they closing our school? The children should not suffer,” she said.

Matinise said she had two children attending Sandisulwazi and another child attending Moreson.

She accused Salters of employing his wife as a meal server at Sandisulwazi.

“They are the ones who are making this thing racial.

“The ANC has nothing to do with this. The school belongs to the community and should not be used to fight political battles,” Matinise said.

Ntomboxolo Mfeketo, who has two children at Sandisulwazi, said: “We heard they are eating at the school and that is why they are there every day.”

Another concerned parent, Cynthia Dingana, said: “These people are eating at school every day and taking the children’s food. They also took the old fence and poles without permission.

“We are worried because there has not been school for two days now.”

Community member Bulelani Bojo said he would be presenting department officials with evidence that some SGB members were receiving R600 in travelling stipends from school funds.

“As a community leader I am very worried to hear people are using institutions like our schools for their own benefit.”

Another community member, Thembeka Nofemele, said: “The SGB is at the school from 8am until 2pm. They are not buying the correct food. Children are forced to eat bones instead of meat and they do not receive vegetables or fruit. There is no supplier. They are buying the food themselves. What they are doing is illegal and I have a problem.”

But Van Louw said the allegations were untrue and teachers at the school were behind the false accusations against SGB members.

“These people have been misinformed and it is the teachers behind these lies.

“They are only doing this because as the SGB we forced them out of the staff room and back into the classrooms. The teachers do not want to teach.”

He said no SGB member was stealing food from the school’s nutrition programme as the storeroom’s keys were kept by a teacher.

“I am shocked by these allegations because when Mr Salters asks for the storeroom’s keys to count the food, the teacher is always reluctant to hand them over.

“Also, how can we be serving rotten food when all the food is bought from Finro and we have the slips to prove this? “Will Finro sell rotten food? “None of this is true, although I will admit that we have not been buying fruit recently due to cost,” he said.

He did make use of petrol money of between R350 and R500 as he used his own vehicle once a month to purchase food in Port Elizabeth from Finro, he said.

“People are just out to incriminate the SBG. We welcome any investigation by the department.”

He said allegations that the SGB was mismanaging school food and funds were a lie.

Salters said the SGB made use of transport service providers to travel to Port Elizabeth and purchase food from Finro.

“We always serve proper food. I make sure of that. The school management team writes a cheque and we pay the transport provider to take us to PE to buy the food.”

Provincial spokesman Malibongwe Mtima said department officials had met with relevant stakeholders in Paterson yesterday where it was resolved that schooling must resume as from today.

“Issues were packaged accordingly and will be dealt with within the relevant timeframes by head office and district office.”

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