A day following our exposé on Machabeng College’s maladministration, loss of accreditation and membership to Council of International Schools (CIS), the school issued a meeting invitation to scholars’ parents.
The meeting was held on Friday last week where the newly appointed board of governors announced its intention to launch an independent investigation into allegations of fraud and maladministration against its headmaster, Jannalee Schwimmer, among other things.
MNN Centre for Investigative Journalism has learnt that Schwimmer’s contract, which lapses at the end of July, is under review by the Board.
“At this point we cannot confirm that it is not going to be renewed, as contractual matters are individually privileged. But the Board has expressed that decisions taken will be in the best interests of the school and the entire Machabeng Community,” said a source privy to the matter.
Announcement for launch of fresh investigations was made by the Board’s new chairperson Keratile Thabana when meeting with parents.
Thabana said they will be undertaking own “professional” investigations to look into the allegations of mismanagement of funds, lack of clearance and adherence to procedures amongst other things.
Without disclosing the amount, Thabana said the Board already received financial commitment for the investigations to be done timely.
This sparked outrage among parents who were shocked that the Board wanted to conduct new investigations and use school funds when there was already an Interim Parent Committee investigation report that “thoroughly” investigated the school problems.
“We elected our representatives who have a mandate from us as parents to speak to all the stakeholders to address issues that we raised and to report to us…have you got a problem working with those representatives to thrash out these issues…give yourselves a chance to understand our concerns,” one parent said to the board.
But Thabana said: “We are going to get a professional body that is going to establish some of these allegations. And due to the sensitivity of the matter, once we have engaged such a body that will do the necessary professional work to tell us whether your money has been misappropriated or what, we will come back and give you the report and we’re planning to do that ASAP”.
MNN discovered that Machabeng has not only lost the CIS accreditation, but also the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accreditation. NEASC ensures quality education for all students in public, independent, and international schools and centers around the world, CIS being one of them.
In response, Acting Headmaster James Kamau informed the parents that Machabeng is accredited by a number of organizations that adhere to similar standards as CIS. He emphasized that Machabeng’s offered certificates are still valid, and that the school’s international standards and exams are unaffected by the loss of CIS accreditation.
“Our certificates are still valid and you can use them internationally… It is not all schools in the world that have international accreditation. I am not saying we do not need it…we need it. It’s not all schools that offer IB that have CIS… however, it is vital for us to have CIS and NEASC because there are so many things that they check in this school. Although these bodies work independently, what they look for is sometimes related,” Kamau said.
Nonetheless, Kamau emphasized that it is critical for the school to regain its accreditation with CIS as well as NEASC-CIS as they assess Machabeng’s international standards.
As parents were unhappy and dissatisfied with the response, a murmur of confusion swept the tiers of Machabeng’s Amphitheatre.
“I’m not sure if I got you very well, but it seems you downplayed the issue… as if you are saying that we can take it or leave it,” one Machabeng parent said.
“My shirt is worn out paying for three kids here, I am just an ordinary Mosotho man who took the challenge to bring their children to this school for the very same fact that this is an international school…Ntate Principal, you have really deposited my confidence in you.”
Another issue raised during the meeting was the matter of the schools dubious “fee hike” that has raised some debate at the school.
Thabana said the board is still new, but they did go to the Ministry and had a lengthy discussion about the fee increase.
“There are allegations that the fees were higher than was previously approved… That is one of the things that will have to be incorporated into the terms of references and the Ministry gave us confidence in one regard, it approved a certain percentage, anything that is above that percentage is not admissible,” Thabana said.
“Once we find that a higher percentage was put in place, we have been charged with finding ways of working around that balance to make sure that we observe the approved percentage increase. We will be advised by the professional body once we have established for a fact what the status is,” said Thabana.
The parents also demanded an apology and an explanation from the Ministry of Education for the “unceremonious” cancellation of their meeting on the 26 March.
“I really think we should be straight forward and hit the nail on the head… As parents we were unceremoniously dispatched from the very same place… I think it’s proper for the Ministry to tell us that they are sorry; perhaps they didn’t understand what we were here for. They knew very well that the school has a problem. But someone, somewhere, just decided to kick us out,” one parent passionately said.
To that Government School Supervisor, Motsamai Motsamai apologized and told the parents that due to the communication breakdown that occurred, what he had given was not an instruction to dismiss the parents but a request to postpone it.