Letter to the Head Teacher from concerned parents
5 July 2022
TO: THE SAIPS HEADTEACHER
CC: BOARD CHAIRMAN & BOARD MEMBERS
FROM: CONCERNED PARENTS OF CHILDREN AT SAIPS
We are a group of concerned parents who have extensively discussed the recent manner in which decisions on pertinent matters by school management have been made that affect the welfare of our children. We all share the frustration, concern, and dismay at how the issues which we highlight below have been handled.
Firstly, an alarming level of dissatisfaction amongst teachers at the school was brought to the attention of parents through several communications to the point that some veteran teachers have chosen to leave the school or not to renew their contracts. We are also aware that the teachers who are leaving the school have been asked to sign non-disclosure agreements. We have knowledge that some teachers who were suspended (as a result of investigations into the allegations of professional misconduct by the headteacher) have chosen to resign. The emotional distress caused to them during the period of suspension has been extreme with no comfort being accorded to parents with regard to the integrity of teaching to our wards.
The school wrote to the parent body responding to what was termed a “malicious” email disclosing allegations of an affair the headteacher had with a junior member of staff. The letter assured parents that investigations were under way to find the author of the email. No further communication followed. Parents then learned that some members of staff had been suspended following investigations. As parents, whose children are under the care of some of the staff that have been suspended, and a headteacher who is alleged to be in an inappropriate relationship with a junior member of staff, we consider that the school should have reassured our confidence in the school by informing us of the outcome of the investigations and what course action was taken and the reasons thereof.
The voluntary departure of several excellent teachers and the yet to be warranted suspension or dismissal of other teachers leaves concerned parents dismayed and questioning the transparency and accountability of actions implemented by the school management. We are equally disappointed in the manner in which educated Malawian teachers have been persecuted, especially at critical stages in our children’s learning that may materially affect their performance in defining assessments such at the SATs assessments. Unless this is addressed, it is screaming racism in our faces.
It’s sad to see such a great institution crumbling. A number of parents have been with the institution for decades, entrusting the legacy and above-board performance of the school in educating and moulding of their wards as the next generation of responsible and productive local and global citizenry. It is saddening to see the legacy of this pristine institution take a questionable turn that is against the history of the institution. We strongly believe that as enshrined in the constitutional freedom of expression, and right to ensure value for money as responsible consumers and institutional stakeholders, the school is duty bound to provide the necessary address of our concerns to their logical, fair, and transparent conclusion.
Secondly, we have recently noted with great concern the communication in change of the school uniform and logo. It is rather shocking that the school would make such drastic changes without any due evidence of material justification and a consultative process with the according democratic reflection of the will of the stakeholders. The only information parents received about this was that there was a parent working group that would be constituted, the manner of which was never defined. We were not aware that a complete change of uniform, logo and school look was to be discussed. We do not recall detailed feedback about what exactly this working group worked on. We only received news through the Monday updates, where regular Thank You notes to the parents that joined the working party were made. The letters have never detailed what exactly had been discussed at the workshop or that they worked on changing / designing the school logo or uniform or any consultative process undertaken with the broader parental community.
A pragmatic approach for a decision with such a huge impact would have been to precede with a survey seeking opinions from parents of the proposed changes before implementing the changes. You would have highlighted to all of us, and not a few select, what is wrong with the current school uniform that this new uniform will correct. We find this style of leadership dictatorial and without any due regard for the greater parent body. We find the decision to change and implement the changes has been based on opinions of a select few. It lacks a democratic process and does not reflect the sentiments of stakeholders.
In recent history, there have been a lot changes that were implemented by the school after thorough consultation with parents via online surveys / google forms. For example, a change in mode of communication, switch back from online to onsite learning for the children when schools had been closed for onsite learning when COVID was at its peak, which was based on results from a survey from parents.
We are aware of the wonderful and rich history of the school and the heartwarming history behind the chitenje print. It was actually designed by the students themselves many years ago. In addition, we find it absolutely disrespectful to those Malawians whose families have been part of this school to now have the uniform changed on a whim - totally erasing and disregarding our school history! The animal print is a symbol of Africa. It was what added to the African / Malawian feel to the school, which we are all very proud of. It showed respect and appreciation for cultural identity.
Further, the school logo has a very important historical significance to Malawi. It was part of the Coat of Arms for Malawi for about 50 years during the colonial period. We do not know what was wrong with this important relic of our history to be replaced with a purple leaf. Whatever the motivation behind the change, the school should have respected the fact that the school has a seat in Malawi, and the historical and cultural relevance of its citizens ought to be respected.
The colour is impractical. With mixed connotations regarding its symbolism from royalty to sexuality, it is best that we distance it from our children. Further, having socks and jerseys that are so specific to the school means that if they run out of stock or if the quality is not great we don’t have the option to buy it elsewhere. The uniform needs to be something that can be accessible by all children, where other options are available in Malawi should the school run out of stock, and that the accessories are standard so that we have the option to purchase it elsewhere should it be required, or should we find the cost too pricey at the school.
We have strong reservations of the intent of the change in the school uniform and logo, with implications that do not support sustainability. This is yet again an example of a decision made without proper communication, consultation, or local contextual implementation.
The school’s policy on complaints states that “Our school aims to be fair, open and honest when dealing with any concern or complaint. We commit to giving careful consideration to all concerns/complaints, and to dealing with them as swiftly as possible.
We therefore ask the following from the school:
1. To immediately halt the implementation of change of the school uniform, colors and logo until a fair, inclusive, transparent and democratic process is undertaken for determination of the same. This may be via an online survey to ALL parents and a conclusive decision be made via the majority opinion. To otherwise let this proceed in a unilateral manner that is has embarked will be a gross loss of opportunity by management.
2. Submit open and transparent communication regarding the teachers who are leaving, as has always been the case when have left in the past even where contracts expired.
3. Provide communication and feedback regarding the investigation into the allegations made against the headteacher and feedback regarding the charges against the suspended teachers and how the matter has been dealt with