St Andrews Head teacher accused of mistreating juniors

St Andrews Primary School Head Teacher David Marriot has been accused of mistreating Teaching Assistants, with some of them alleging that they were sent on forced leave without what they considered to be valid reasons.

Malawi24 has come across a document which was written by some concerned Teaching Assistants who have accused the outgoing Head Teacher of coming hard on his critics.

“Sadly, staff bullying is on the rise. Some teachers are scared to ask anything in the staff briefing because they have been told in the past that they are negative. Staff members have narrated instances where they have been shouted at when in the meeting with the Head Teacher.

“Others are threatened with dismissal, or made to feel incompetent. This has a negative toll on our mental health. Child protection has often been used as a whipping tool to get rid of unwanted staff members.

“Intimidation is also a huge concern. It’s not on for a boss to bang tables in anger or give ultimatum if you don’t come to some sort of agreement. It’s not okay for staff to be left in tears following a dress down by the Head Teacher. We feel that communication should be done while keeping the dignity of both parties. We also feel that bias is hard to root out when senior positions are held by spouses, which further limits staff voice,” reads part of the document.

Marriot has also been accused of mistreating Teaching Assistants to the extent of effecting an 80% pay cut without even informing them.

The Teaching Assistants have also been concerned with how Marriot’s administration has been changing roles without considering the impact of such decisions.

“Our roles and responsibilities keep on changing from year to year with little consideration of the impact such decisions have on our lives and day wellbeing. We understand this was important for child protection but we feel a fair compromise was not made.

“The changes came with no extra pay even though this was a job that previously was optional for those who chose to do it as overtime. A bus run starts from around 5:30 and ends between 4:30 pm and 5 pm. We have to wake up very early sometime from 4:30 am in order to get to school on time for the bus run.

“Unlike teachers who are housed on or close to the school site, daily travel for Teaching Assistants is challenging. When we explained our concerns, we were told to take it or leave,” continued the statement.

It has also been reported that sometimes, some staff members are demoted or fired for crossing paths with Marriot’s wife who has more influence on her husband.

Some of the victims, who opted for anonymity, narrated their ordeal, saying whenever they apply for loans, the accounts department would charge them with interests.

“It has reached an extent of being charged with interests by the accountant whenever we apply for loans and when we complain to the Head Teacher, he spits fire on us. Is this how we are supposed to be treated. When we are accessing these loans it means we are in financial problems but instead of easing the burden, we are forced to repay triple the money we borrowed, is this fair? And to our surprise, it’s not every one of us who is forced to pay these interests, others are enjoying full protection from the same management yet others are being mistreated right under his watch,” said one of the concerned Teaching Assistant.

Meanwhile, all the Teaching Assistants have only received 20 percent of their salary, a decision that hasn’t gone well with them.

“We cannot receive 20 percent of our salaries against the labour laws. How are we going to survive? And how do you effect such a pay cut without even engaging us? Yes the situation is tough but why should they punish us like this? she narrated.

But responding to the accusations, Marriot said: “There has been a misunderstanding in that all staff will be receiving full salaries, being back paid for money lost. Unfortunately, like many organisations we were impacted on by Covid-19. Our cash flow was compromised. Therefore, our staff had to be temporarily reduced.

“However, all staff had this communicated to them and they will now all be returning to work. Their money will be refunded to them,” he said.

On forcing the staff to pay back loans with huge interests, the head teacher said he had no idea of the accusations brought forward by the staff members.

“About the loans, I would need more details as I am not sure I understand the allegation but we are not a lending institution, when staff members access loans, they pay back without interests so I have no idea of what they are talking about,” he said.

According to the letter, this has been the first time for the staff members to be treated like dogs, saying previous head teachers had no record of abuse of office.

On abusing allegations highlighted by the letter, Marriot said he was as shocked with the accusations levelled against him and his style of administration.