Gateway parents in messy school row

HARARE - Guardians of pupils at Gateway Primary School — an elite school in Harare — are up in arms with the Parents Association Committee (PAC) chairperson, Justice Marwisa, demanding his resignation over a litany of allegations, including incompetence and corruption.

In a 64-page document to the school authorities detailing allegations of their ill-treatment at the hands of their association, angry parents accused Marwisa of working in cahoots with the school administration — including the acting head Kevin Ricquebourg — to unilaterally make important decisions without consulting them.

The parents accuse Marwisa of terminating the contract of a school tuck shop tenant Marinda Feneysey without their prior knowledge. 

The parents also accuse the authorities of financial mismanagement especially in the area of infrastructural development projects saying “the PAC is indeed very inactive in this area”.

“We demand your immediate resignation from office because we cannot have a chairman who wilfully violates the association’s constitution through which his authority is derived,” the petitioners — calling themselves the Free-Speech body and led by Takaidza Raymond Madekunye — said.

“The moment a chairman attacks  a group of parents who are exercising their rights which they enjoy both in terms of the national constitutions and that of the association, he becomes part of the problem not the solution hence your actions have triggered a vote of no confidence against you.”

Contacted for comment, the Gateway School Trust chief executive officer Abe Gatsi dismissed the allegations as baseless.

Gatsi, however, admitted that the issue was a cause for “great concern as this is creating anxiety among Gateway School parents and other key stakeholders, thereby risking the smooth running of the school.

“It is our observation that in the case of the tuck shop, the correct channels were not followed as this would have led to the matter being resolved internally and as a result, the matter has spread externally to those not mandated to comment with any authority on the issues at hand,” Gatsi said.

He added that if the parents have issues with the association chairperson, they should wait for an Annual General Meeting (AGM) or call for an Extra-Ordinary General Meeting (EGM).

“It is at any of these meetings that they can dissolve the current leadership and elect a new one but I must mention that we are not pleased as a school by the parents’ blatant violations of our communication channels which do not include the issue of petitions.

“Moreover, I thought if they have failed to discuss the problems if there are any, they should have approached the trust through me so that we act as the adjudicator in the matter but no one bothered to involve us, yet we believe in harmonious co-existence with one purpose of delivering quality education and building characters while in the process we exalt God since we are a Christian institution.

“Only last month, the PAC called for a parents’ meeting where those issues should have been raised but surprisingly none of them was present.”

But the parents insist that the termination of Feneysey’s tuck shop lease was triggered by her personal differences with Marwisa.

“For a Christian institution to be so devious in its dealings bordering on malevolence is absolutely unbelievable.

“These manoeuvres justify why  the initial decision to remove her from the tuck shop did not make any sense to a lot of parents . . . , your actions show that this matter is more personal than professional . . . there is an aftertaste of vindictiveness.”

Comments (1)

As a Gateway parent, I can say this reporting grossly misrepresents the facts. Both pertaining to the actions of the PAC as well as the general sentiment of the parents. The tuckshop decision was largely based on the results of an anonymous survey of all parents and had related to a broad range of school matters. The few objecting to the handling the matter have regrettably opted for back channels and failed to utilize the established communications channels within the school. This school has not been devious in its dealings as described in the article. On a personal note I had long held concerns with the tuckshop and the attitude of those involved there, particularly as this is such a key touch point for the school. I believe that these sentiments were in all likelihood widely held and were expressed in the survey results. The PAC enjoys the support of the wider parent body.

BR - 8 June 2017

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