What would it take for you to speak out against corruption? When our centre in South Africa invited the public to report abuse they had experienced, one issue came up again and again: theft of school resources.
“Parents who might be too scared to engage with other acts of corruption are prepared to be very brave and very courageous when it affects their children and their life chances”, says David Lewis, Executive Director of our chapter in South Africa.
“It could be building a library, providing an extra classroom, putting down an extra sports field – these aren’t big amounts of public money in the scale of things, but they mean a huge amount to the school and to the students, and they mean a huge amount to the parents.”
One complaint came from Soweto, an area of south Johannesburg. According to reports, the head teacher and chair of the school’s governing body were working together to steal money meant to create new resources for the school.
Bringing in forensic experts to help conduct an investigation, our team confirmed the allegations, finding evidence that the pair had already siphoned off US$20,000.
We shared our findings with the department of education who suspended the principal and opened an investigation. She later resigned. Since then, the case has been widely publicised in the media and the education department has committed to working with our chapter to fight this kind of abuse in other schools too. Now, it’s prompting others to come forward.
“People have started getting in touch with more and more reports about corruption in schools. We’re not able to investigate all of them, but we’re using the information to create education campaigns that advise parents on how to take action.” Back in Soweto, it will soon be time to elect a new school governing body.
“We are really hoping that the school can become a model for others by electing parents who oppose corruption and know how to deal with it” David says. “We want to take this one individual success, and turn it into lasting change.”