A teacher at Fairmount High School in Grassy Park has been charged with misconduct by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) for allegedly telling others last week not to report to work because of Covid-19.
Department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said Loren Arries-Hendricks has been charged in terms of Section 18(1)(s) of the Employment of Educators Act, 76 of 1998.
According to Hammond, Arries-Hendricks incited other personnel to non-procedural and/or unlawful conduct by telling them not to report for duty during the pandemic.
“Arries-Hendricks is the only employee charged at this time. The WCED is guided by national labour legislation. The presiding officer will determine the fairness of the charge based on the outcome of the hearing,” she said.
Arries-Hendricks, 52, said she was surprised at the charge as she “can’t even remember what the department alleges me to have said to other teachers”.
“Yes, I am an activist and I was active during the July shutdown with others of course, and we were supported by communities,” she said.
Arries-Hendricks began teaching in 1989 before taking a break in 2002, and recently returned to the classroom.
She said she was shocked at the many regulations that teachers were being subjected to, “with some infringing on their rights”.
Brian Isaacs, interim secretary for The Progressive Organisation Formation, said the WCED has withdrawn the charges against Arries-Hendricks and its actions are in line with their contemplated action against principals who are protecting their school communities.
Isaacs said the WCED has started a process of intimidating teachers who speak out for the health and safety of the pupils, urging that they are to stay home until the Covid-19 curve in the country flattens.
“Even President Cyril Ramaphosa has now decided that most pupils only return to school after four weeks,” he said.
Khalid Sayed, the ANC’s provincial spokesperson on education, said the matter speaks exactly to the motion which he raised in the legislature last Thursday.
“The intimidation of teachers who are merely articulating the sentiments and fears of broader society around the pandemic is not acceptable.
“It is reflective of the MEC’s denialism that sending pupils to school in big numbers during this period poses a risk,” Sayed said.
Hammond said as stated by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on July 14, the Meeting of Council Education Ministers has resolved to take legal action against all individuals and groups that continue to disrupt schooling.
“We would like to emphasise the fact that the reopening and closure of schools is a legislative responsibility accorded to national and provincial authorities only.
“Groups and individuals who are not empowered by law do not have the authority to close schools,” she said.