Westwood International School has been hit by allegations of racism with some black staff claiming marginalisation and ill-treatment by the head of the school Helga Gallinger who is originally from Germany.
Some employees, who preferred to remain anonymous for fear of also being charged with bringing Westwood International School into disrepute accuse Gallinger who joined the school recently of coming up with a ‘silent policy’ aimed at keeping blacks out of key positions by employing whites with irrelevant or without valid certificates and work permits.
“Since the arrival of the new school head who arrived in July last year, there have been intimidations of teachers and discrimination based on race and gender. Those who support him are some whites who are without certificates or are in possession of irrelevant certificates and they have been given managerial positions,” sources said. Sources also added that “as long as you are white, it does not matter whether you don’t have the relevant qualifications for teaching; as we speak some of them are undertaking training here.”
They also allege that the school has been recently characterised by factions; “something that was not there before the arrival of the new school head and this has resulted in some people resigning including the deputy school head.” Attempts to fight discrimination and speaking out against ‘injustice’ results in the marginalisation or dismissal of those employees, they say.
“We are unhappy about what is happening at Westwood and are surprised that it is happening since the arrival of Gallinger,” said sources. They also claim that Gallinger is bent on favouring children of diplomats and minister over “those of people with no influence in the society.” “He is also against a proposal or Bill that was recently before Parliament requesting government to regulate private schools saying proponents of such a Bill intend to turn Westwood International School into a ‘cheap school’ where even the under privileged can enrol,” they claimed.
However, responding to a Sunday Standard questionnaire, Westwood flatly denied the allegations insisting that “it is entirely incorrect to suggest that there are unqualified teachers working at Westwood international School. In fact every teacher at the school is qualified for the position they hold.” Westwood said it is extremely proud of its teaching staff, who uphold the highest standards of education that can be found in Botswana.
“The scandalous and offensive allegation that there is discrimination against certain groups at Westwood is entirely unfounded and we reject it completely. As an international School we are enormously proud of the diversity among our students and workforce and discrimination on the grounds of race or gender is unthinkable to us,” says Westwood.
Westwood says that the Deputy Director of the School who left some months ago elected not to renew “her contract and there is absolutely no truth to the suggestion that she was forced to leave. That decision was entirely hers.”
Reports also indicate that at a meeting held on 14 May, parents insisted that they should have voting rights and the “school head and Council doesn’t seem to understand.”
Westwood confirmed that it has recently undergone a review of its constitution, however added that “parents still have the right to vote for their representatives to the School Council as they always have done.
“Council were elected and they will contribute towards the running of the School as parent Representatives have been doing. Parents have not been excluded from the decision-making process. Westwood continues, as it has always done, to offer an inclusive, comprehensive and enriching education to all of its students with the participation of parents and community,” states Westwood.