Retired principal's pension shock behind Cape school shutdown

Cape Town - A retired school principal, who realised that her pension would not be enough to support her, has apparently caused a shutdown at a school in Nyanga, Cape Town as she lobbied for the right to continue working until she improved her financial situation.

ANC ward councillor Khaya Yozi said the former principal of Mvula Primary School in Nyanga, Florence Dlamsha, discovered when she retired that she only had five years' worth of government pension savings.

This is because five years ago, she handed over the Mvula Independent School, that she started and built up, to the Department of Education.

She was a founding member of the school in the 1980s when Crossroads, the area the school is situated in, was caught up in political violence during apartheid and the shunting around of black people by the government.

According to an interview published in City Vision, she observed that children were the unnoticed victims of violence happening around them, and were struggling to get an education because their parents did not have the documents they needed to get into a public school. When people heard she was a teacher from the Eastern Cape, they flocked to her to ask her to build a school.

Her first school, the Alfred Siphika Primary School in Crossroads was burnt down and the second, the independent school, was built after a fundraising campaign, supported by teachers earning very little, and philanthropists.

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However, according to the department, she is now only entitled to pension from the government from the date of the handover, when she stayed on as principal, until her retirement.

Yozi said she was supposed to retire late last year but, when she realised her financial predicament, she was given a grace period to work until December so that she could put a little extra money away.

An acting principal was appointed from the beginning of 2018.

'Shocked by what she is doing'

However, after going on retirement at the end of 2017, Dlamsha apparently put her foot down and returned to the school for the new academic year in 2018.

"In January she took the keys to the storeroom," he said, explaining one of Dlamsha's protests.

Yozi, who spent a year in the school now known as Mvula Primary School, said that as the owner of the school when it was still private, there was an expectation that Dlamsha should have arranged her own pension for that period.

"This thing that the government must pay you for the next 27 years can't be done," he said.

According to Yozi, Dlamsha had drummed up support among parents and past pupils, and the divisions over the issue had led to the school not opening on Wednesday.

"It is sheer opportunism from Dlamsha to hold the learners and the community at ransom," said Yozi, a ward councillor.

However, it has been agreed that a task team will be formed comprising the chairperson of the school governing body, Dlamsha and Yozi to thrash out a proposal to the education department that she work for another six to 12 months to build up more savings.

They would also establish whether Dlamsha's handover of the school included a pension provision or a lump sum payout to invest for her later years.

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"Officials must try to accommodate her even though there is nothing in the policy for her," said Yozi.

"But we are all shocked by what she is doing."

Western Cape Department of Education spokesperson Jessica Shelver confirmed the shutdown.

"The school governing body is insisting that the former principal, who retired last year, remain at the school as a caretaker principal while the department fills the post in a permanent capacity," said Shelver.

However, in line with policy, the school's acting principal should be taking over at the helm of the school.

"Unfortunately, the pension of the former principal is based on only five years of government service, since the school became a public school," she said.

Dlamsha was not immediately available to comment, despite several calls to her.