Maseru Prep principal flees

Parents allege mismanagement of funds, inappropriate conduct

KANANELO BOLOETSE

MASERU – Michael de Kock, Maseru English Medium Preparatory School (Maseru Prep) headmaster, quit his post last week in the face of growing outrage of parents over alleged mismanagement of funds, behaving in an inappropriate manner towards certain employees and unilaterally employing teachers. Parents who spoke to Public Eye last month on condition of anonymity claimed the school did not have money and was in a very difficult situation to the extend that it had not been able to buy textbooks for students.

Teachers, the parents said, were having to rely on photocopied material for teaching. They also claimed that de Kock’s work permit had expired. Public Eye confronted de Kock with this information on August 25. “We would like to hear how you respond to these allegations,” Public Eye said in an email. He did not respond to the email until the following day, August 25, when Public Eye reminded him that it was still awaiting his response.

He then responded: “Would you be so kind as to come and speak to us concerning these questions so that we can understand the situation and answer these questions for you?” This publication has since learnt that de Kock wrote a resignation letter on August 25. “Dear Board Chairperson and members. I would like to serve my resignation letter to you. I have now served the school for seven years and I am very … proud of Maseru Prep,” he said.

He told the board that many people at the school, especially the children, had made his stay wonderful “and it was so good to be part of this great school and family”. “I am privileged to have been able to share memorable experiences with this good nation and got to know the amazing culture and the country well. I would like to thank the staff, board and parents for all their support and help during the years,” he said.

“I will give three months’ notice as per my contract and leave towards the end of November 2021,” he added. On August 26, a meeting was set for Public Eye to meet the headmaster on Tuesday, August 31, but did not happen. “I will mail you early tomorrow morning (Wednesday, September 1) and make a new arrangement,” de Kock said in an email.

He did not make a new arrangement, instead, he resigned last week. “I hereby tender my resignation letter to you and the board with immediate effect. My work permit has ended and I know that it would be best for all parties concerned,” he stated in his resignation letter. “Thank you for all the years I have been with Maseru Prep and have gained very good experiences and made many friends. I will really miss the children as they are the best I have ever worked for and got to know in my career,” he added.

The parents told Public Eye that the situation at the school had become untenable and there was a lot of talk about whether de Kock, if he had not resigned, would have survived axing by the board, which, was likely. Malinda Serobanyane, the board chairperson, could neither confirm nor deny whether de Kock resigned when contacted on Wednesday this week.

Serobanyane indicated that she needed to discuss with other board members first whether these issues, which she insisted were internal matters, could be discussed in public. Maseru Prep is an international school serving both the local and expatriate communities. A parents’ committee governs the school. On August 26, Public Eye has established, de Kock wrote a note for this publication listing a few of the activities and new initiatives that he started at the school since 2014 by teamwork from all management.

The note, however, did not officially reach Public Eye but this publication was able to obtain a copy through its own means. In this note, de Kock said someone had asked what the school had done in the past few years saying he could only remember that the school planted grass on the fields. He said since 2014, the school had received certificates from PMR.africa – a division of C.J. Hattingh & Sons, a consultancy and research company based in South Africa.

“This is a company which does surveys annually for schools and others who have stimulated growth and development. That was the only year we received a silver certificate. In 2015 and 2019 we received the Diamond Arrow for private schools which is outstanding, 1st overall. The rest of the years we received Golden Arrows awards,” de Kock said.

In August 2014, he added, the school only had about 230 students and “today we have over 520 students at school”. He also mentioned that he started and opened the ICT (Information and Communications Technology) centre, which he said was then part of the library, the two nurseries and two aftercare centres. He said: “I also started MAPS (Maseru Association of Private Schools). There are six schools who are members of this group and we come together at the start of each term to work out a timetable to have sporting and other activities against the member schools. This is on hold for Covid-19.”

He added: “The school was only Cambridge in name. We began a Cambridge office, registered the teachers and students, trained the staff, bought textbooks and that year was the first time that the school wrote Cambridge exams in our existence and has written it every year since 2015.

“Our Stage Six students also now write the Cambridge ICT examination and the French Delf Prim Exam from the French Embassy in Lesotho. The checkpoint examinations written by our Stage Three to Five students also get sent to Cambridge for evaluation and a report is written back to inform us about our students’ strong and weak points.” de Kock said Maseru Prep was one of only a few schools that has been selected by Cambridge to write their future exams so that these exams can be moderated by Cambridge. “We have made the graduation ceremony a highlight and made it a prestigious event for our Stage Six students and invested in gowns for the children,” he said.

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