Pietermaritzburg – Parents at a local private school are fuming after a teacher not only allegedly admitted to stealing more than R1 million, but also conned her pupils and colleagues into thinking she had cancer with only four months to live.
Weekend Witness has in its possession e-mails from Cowan House school sent to pupils’ parents in November stating the details of the “misappropriation of funds and misconduct”.
On November 11, school principal Rob Odell admitted to parents that they were investigating more than R1 million missing from their funds. The school named IT teacher Vinny Jaickaran Moodley as the culprit, saying that she had admitted her guilt and had chosen to resign.
Numerous attempts to contact Moodley and text messages sent to her and her husband were not answered.
According to the school, the fraud had spanned over two years and amounted to more than R1 million.
The school has since opened a criminal case in connection with the missing money.
Further to the misappropriating of funds, the school has established that Moodley is not suffering from cancer, as she has informed them, but rather another illness.
A parent who asked not to be identified in the newspaper said they were “absolutely fed up” as the details of the investigation were not discussed with them until the very end.
“That is our money that this woman had stolen. As for the cancer debacle, my children were asked to pray for her and they were all so worried about her. What does that do to my child when they find out it was all a big lie?” asked the parent.
According to the parent, other parents at the school hosted fundraisers for Moodley’s treatment. Another parent said the school went as far as granting her “last wish” by throwing her a wedding at the school.
“She said she had three months to live and her last wish was to have a wedding. The school and pupils all got together and gave her a damn wedding. How ridiculous is that?” added the parent.
In three separate e-mails to Cowan House parents during November, Odell explained that the school had been investigating the misappropriation of funds for two weeks. He wrote in an e-mail on November 13 that Moodley’s actions have “far-reaching consequences” for the Cowan House community.
He said although there is “significant confusion and anger arising out of this matter … it is important that we are cognisant of the consequences of Mrs Moodley’s actions on all levels and our response to the situation”.
On November 16, Odell wrote to parents saying many children had shared “close and affirming” relationships with Moodley and some pupils were very upset by the recent and unfortunate developments. He said the school had consulted with a psychologist who provided teachers with pointers on helping children “re-orientate” themselves.
When contacted by Weekend Witness, chairperson of the Cowan House school board Andrew Barnes said the school has commissioned a forensic audit and it would be “premature” to speculate on the findings at this stage.
“Cowan House would not like to comment on any of the other allegations made as these were dealt with in confidence, following a fair HR practice. Mrs Moodley resigned from the school on the 10th November 2015,” said Barnes.
Police confirmed that a case of fraud was opened at the Hilton Police Station.
Police spokesperson Sergeant Mtokozisi Ngobese said the commercial crime unit would be handling the case and no arrests had yet been made.
A LOCAL make-up artist and photographer said they were contacted by Vinny Jaickaran Moodley in May this year for a photoshoot for her wedding.
Kireshen Chetty and Sherwin Naidoo of House of K & S said that when Moodley contacted them, they had already been booked for the specific dates.
“Eventually she contacted us again and we were still booked. We then got talking and she told us all about how she had been suffering from cancer and that she was down and sad about it,” said Kireshen Chetty.
He said after discussing it with Naidoo and another service provider, the group decided to do a free photoshoot for Moodley to “pick up her spirits”.
“When we met her for the shoot she looked really frail so we never once questioned whether she had cancer or not. We did her make-up and dressed her up and even had jewellery sponsored for her shoot. She was such a bubbly person that we honestly felt like this was our way of giving back and making her feel better.”
Chetty said Moodley had no hair, eyebrows or eyelashes and looked “frail”.
“We did her photoshoot and shared it all over our online pages. We actually became friendly and she even tagged us in a birthday post on Facebook saying that she made it through another birthday,” added Chetty.
Chetty and Naidoo said they were “alarmed” recently when someone commented on one of Moodley’s pictures on Facebook, saying that she was lying about having cancer.
“They said she was scamming people and we contacted the person and asked for proof. We didn’t really take it further but when we searched for her on Facebook, we realised that she had deactivated her account and that made us even more doubtful of her case.”
Chetty and Naidoo said they are now contemplating whether to take down her “cancer photoshoot” pictures from their website and social media pages as they “don’t want to be associated with this case”.