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CAPE TOWN - Two school principals have defended their decision to contest wards in the George municipality after an opposition party expressed concern that this may influence their learners.
Conville Primary School principal Sam Crowley and Parkdene Secondary School principal Derrick Petersen are contesting ward 1 and ward 8 in George for the GOOD Party.
The Plaaslike Besorgde Inwoners (PBI) political party called on the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) to compel the two principals to take special leave and vacate their offices with immediate effect, saying they were concerned that learners may be compromised and possibly unduly influenced by the presence of their principles.
But Crowley, who has been a principal for about six years, said if he wins the election, he will vacate the principalship.
“I am at the school to teach and manage and I have no intention of influencing any learners. The school is a place where teachers teach and learners learn and that is the bottom-line at my school. Teaching and learning is our core business,” he said.
Crowley said he was running as a candidate to bring change in his community and to tackle housing issues.
Petersen said GOOD was not the only party with candidates in the provincial education department that will stand for elections.
“I don't compromise on quality education. I work strictly in the boundaries and perimeter of the WCED and after school and weekends are my own time as a South African citizen. I have my rights as a voter and a citizen and I won't be intimidated by anyone. As far as the election goes, it will be my decision to decide on 1 November 2021 whether to stay on as principal or not,” he said.
Petersen added that he was only informed yesterday that all public sector employees must take leave if running.
PBI Secretary General, Lucinda Jacobs Orie said they reported the matter to the IEC but they were referred to the WCED.
“The PBI respects the democratic right of every individual to participate in the political activities of our country. We are however trying to understand the policy of the WCED regarding principles as candidates. The political rights and freedoms of the parent community should also be respected. Therefore, if the principals want to participate, they must vacate their offices for the duration of the election season,” Orie said.
GOOD party secretary general Brett Herron said the party will be looking into the matter.
“The Public Service legislation and regulations require state employees to take leave of absence once they are declared candidates in an election. By my understanding these school principals should have gone on leave from October 1 when candidate nominations were confirmed by the IEC and certificates were issued to all candidates,” Herron said.
WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said: “A circular was released by the WCED on the rights of employees to pursue political careers. It also corresponds with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) circular. It is important to note that WCED employees may not use official time and/or state premises to canvass for or advance political party interests. The SA Schools Act and the Western Cape Provincial School Education Act addresses this,” she said.
IEC provincial electoral officer Michael Hendrickse confirmed they recommended the complainant to refer the matter to the WCED.