Staff exodus hits Machabeng

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Machabeng CollegeBy Caswell Tlali

MASERU — Machabeng College has been rocked by massive resignations amid allegations of misappropriation of funds, racial tensions and pay squabbles.

Machabeng is regarded as the best school in Lesotho that offers an international education.

Headmaster Bruce Gilbert abruptly resigned last week just as the school board was about to complete its investigation into the alleged misappropriation of funds.

Gilbert submitted his resignation letter on August 19.

The letter dated August 15 said the resignation was with immediate effect.

Twelve expatriate teachers have also left the college in recent weeks.

The board chairman, Habofanoe Lehana, confirmed to the Lesotho Times yesterday that Gilbert and 12 expatriate teachers had resigned.

He said the resignations came at a time when the board was also investigating allegations that expatriate teachers were being favoured with better salaries and benefits at the expense of teachers from Lesotho.

“I cannot say Gilbert has misappropriated funds but all I know is that the investigations were about to be completed when he handed me his resignation letter,” Lehana said.

“Suspicions arose last year that the headmaster was mishandling financial matters and the AGM (Annual General Meeting) that comprises parents, teachers and the management gave the board a mandate to investigate this matter,” he said.

At that time Lehana was in the board’s financial committee.

He said the investigation started as soon as he was elected board chairman in December last year.

He said this was “after the board was advised that the school accounts showed that there was financial misappropriation”.

The findings of the forensic investigation will be presented to the board soon, Lehana said. He said the board was dealing with the investigation when it received “complaints from local teachers that they were being discriminated against based on their colour”.

“The board resolved to investigate that but even before it started it received complaints from the expatriate teachers that they were being embarrassed by the locals on racial grounds,” he said.

“However, when we resolved to investigate the complaints we realised the expatriates were uncomfortable with the investigation.”

He said the board however decided to investigate the complaints from the two sides.

“The investigators were perusing files, checking and counterchecking certificates and analysing recruitment procedures when they handed in their resignation letters.”

He said although the investigation is yet to be completed there is an indication that there is favouritism in recruitments and promotions.

“Over 50 percent of white expats are not qualified to teach at Machabeng,” he said.

Lehana said some of the teachers did not have first degrees, a prerequisite for teaching at Machabeng College.

The board, he admitted, should also take the blame for the recruitment of unqualified teachers because it is responsible for selection of candidates.

“I fail to understand why for a long time the board did not do its duty of setting up a panel for hiring staff at Machabeng”.

“It is the board’s duty to do that and it is wrong to leave the job to be done by the headmaster alone.”

He said the expatriates are mainly from the United States, Britain and one from South Africa, who is “not supposed to be treated as an expat at all”.

Expatriates are, according to the college’s policy, people from outside the Rand monetary area, he said.

Another complaint from the locals, including those from outside Lesotho but within the Rand monetary area, was that the expatriates holding the same or less qualifications were paid salaries far higher than them.

“I don’t know why the past boards allowed this to happen,” Lehana said, adding: “In my understanding an expat may receive some allowances and benefits but the salary should be the same for the same position with the same qualifications.”

“Our investigations have revealed that these expatriates were paid extremely comfortable salaries while the locals are paid meager amounts.”

Lehana said the board is working on closing the gap between the expatriates and the locals.

Efforts to contact Gilbert were not successful last night.

The acting headmaster, Motubei Mashome, was in a meeting and the Lesotho Times failed to talk to him.

There are currently 60 teachers working at the college, the majority of whom are locals. Lehana said of the 12 teachers who resigned only six were not happy with the way things were being done.

“Among those six were some who were not qualified. Some did not have proper qualifications,” he said.

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