Court blocks Moi Girls principal from kicking out estranged deputy

Moi Girls High School principal Margaret Njaggah. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Moi Girls High School principal has been ordered not to evict her deputy from the staff houses until the case before the Employment and Labour Relations Court (ELRC) is heard.

Justice Byrum Ongaya suspended the letter written by school principal Margaret Njaggah to her deputy Dorcas Chelegat dated June 30, 2023.

"Pending inter-parties hearing or further orders there be a stay of implementation of the petitioner's eviction from the allocated staff quarters house as conveyed in the eviction order dated June 30, 2023," Justice Ongaya ordered.

Chelegat, in her case filed by lawyer Alex Masika, argued that a principal has no powers to interdict her deputy.

In addition, Chelegat said the alleged interdiction was a violation of her labour rights as there was no investigation panel or a disciplinary committee set up by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) to probe her.

The reason behind the interdiction, the court heard was to allegedly have the deputy out on transfer from school. Chelegat claimed Njaggah's letter was meant to create an impression that they cannot work together.

At the heart of the dispute is a letter by Njaggah requiring Chelegat to stay out of the school until a disciplinary case against her is heard and determined.

The principal claimed her deputy had on March 16, 2023 failed to coordinate the school's Annual General Meeting (AGM) logistics. This, she alleged led to a disorganised event.

At the same time, Njaggah alleged that Chelegat failed to submit an investigations report to be submitted to TSC.

The principal also accused her deputy of allegedly allowing strangers into the school compound on March 15, 2023, for hawking.

"The petitioner is well aware that her interdiction is for the collateral reason being that the 1st respondent (Njaggah) has for a while been unable to cause the 3rd respondent (TSC) to transfer her out of Moi Girls School Nairobi and hence the real intention is to create a reasonable ground upon conclusion of the interdiction that it is practically untenable for a principal who has interdicted her deputy to continue working together," said Masika.

In a supporting affidavit, Chelegat explained the June 30, 2023 letter was an indication the principal had already made up her mind to evict her.

According to her, Njaggah was acting as the complainant and judge as she had on June 12, 2023, written a show cause letter requiring her to appear before the board and had indicated the responses were not satisfactory.

"The foregoing charges were the same five charges contained in the earlier show cause letter dated June 2, 2023. The petitioner was required to make a response once more, on the same charges she had been declared guilty by the complainant. And so she once more made a detailed response vide her letter dated June 19, 2023," said Chelegat.

Further Chelegat said on June 22, 2023, the board met but Njaggah sat in the meeting as a panelist and not as the complainant.

She faulted the school's BOM for failing to allow her ask questions or produce evidence to counter the allegations against her. At the same time, she argued that it is against the TSC Act for the board to hear a disciplinary case without a report from an investigations panel.

The embattled deputy claimed the allegations against her were housekeeping issues that only qualified for a warning.

Chelegat said in her 27 years career, she has never received a disciplinary letter or warning from her employer.

"I am aware the foregoing unconstitutional irregularities with collateral intentions; that have offended procedural fairness or due process of rules of natural justice for being in clear breach of legislated or prescribed applicable policy standards that is manifest injustice culminating into the impugned interdiction has caused me great injustice, prejudice, and distress," she said.