A headmaster’s job is often underrated. Successful schools on the right track and/or improving more often than owe a great deal of that accomplishment to having a really really good headmaster at the helm.
Even so, top headmasters might not win the popular contests among all their parents, staff and old boys. When their positive contributions are being overlooked, sometimes it takes news of adversity elsewhere to bring to the fore the deserved recognition and appreciation for the dedication, hard work, knowledge, skills, experience and even personality of the man who is often defined the face of the operation.
Here are a few instances of headmaster adversity that might inspire a feeling of greater appreciation for the head of the school you support.
From a schoolboy rugby perspective Grey College has been riding the wave of positive public interest on a national level as a result of topping the South African school rugby rankings in 2018 and 2019. Much closer to their core, the school is suffering as a result of an on-going feud between the School Governing Body (SGB) and their old boy headmaster Deon Scheepers. Efforts by the SGB to get rid of Scheepers, even limit his powers and his financial benefit, were time-consuming, very costly in legal fees and ultimately futile.
However in a twist of fate, the Volksblad newspaper reported on 27 January 2020 that an independent task committee appointed by the head of the Free State education department to investigate the financial affairs of the school seemingly brought about by the SGB’s decisions to pursue legal means, is now recommending that Scheepers be suspended and charged with serious misconduct. The task committee did however also recommend that the existing SGB be dissolved and a new one elected.
The article mentioned the grounds for the task committee’s decision was that Scheepers adjusted Grey students marks (presumably to improve the academic image of the Grey) and provided false information about their June 2018 examinations to the education department. A separate report accused Scheepers of lying to key stakeholders at Grey as well as to the task committee, a character trait that caused a breakdown in crucial relationships.
Full article here:
At Parktown Boys High school, headmaster Malcolm Williams was suspended in January 2020, following the tragic death by drowning of 13-year-old grade-8 Enock Mpianzi during a river raft building task at a school camp. The heart-breaking incident uncovered a number of procedural flaws and what appeared to be negligence by parties entrusted with the safety of the young boys at the camp.
“An investigation will research whether the school, SGB, district and department were liable. All parties will be assessed.”
Charges could still be laid individually after this formal investigation.
The specific reasons for headmaster Williams suspension were not relayed to the public.
What this tragedy has did highlight is that there is no room for error and that a head has to appear to micro-manage every event or undertaking at his school. The level of responsibility cannot be underestimated.
In 2019, Daniel Pienaar Technical High School in Uitenhage lost their headmaster, Samuel Marias, an old boy who had been on the staff for 35 years. Marais died from an apparent heart attack he suffered after pursuing and assisting to apprehend one of two thieves who had been involved in robbing two Daniel Pienaar students. The crime by knife-point involving the stealing of two cellphones from the two students, took place just outside the school and was reported to the principal on the premises by the victims immediate thereafter. Marais and another teacher then got into a car, went in search of the perpetrators, spotted one less than a kilometre from the school and eventually a made citizen’s arrest with the help of another concerned citizen. Marais while standing alongside the suspect then collapsed and was later pronounced dead at the scene. He died a hero, trying to make a difference in his community.
Drakensberg Boys’ Choir
Although the internationally renowned choir school is not a rugby high school by any means – the last of their boys leave for other high schools after gr.9 – this news item was a moving one.
Greg Brooks, the executive head of the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir was hospitalised following the vicious attack by four armed men at his home on the school campus during December 2019. The gang took valuable possessions including the headmaster’s car during the home invasion. When they tried to kidnap his wife as well, Brooks was stabbed about 14 times with a broken bottle as he fought off the criminals in successful efforts to stop them taking her. He was in ICU and has returned to his duties.
In October 2019, Trevor Kershaw who was headmaster of Glenwood from 1999 until 2016 pledged guilty to defrauding the school of more than R5 million. Although he served no jail time, he will be under house arrest for three years and has a 10 year suspended sentence.
Glenwood received payment very soon after the conclusion of the court case. It must have come as a relief because the school had been under “enormous financial pressure” due to the fraud. Amongst other things, their academic programme had been negatively impacted as they had not replaced SGB employed staff to make ends meet. This resulted in bigger class sizes and an academic standards compromise as the trade-off during that difficult time.