Friday, 10 December 2021

PUPIL BRUTALISED : CATHOLIC SCHOOL COVERS IT UP

A PARENT was forced to withdraw his child from Sacred Heart Primary School in Esigodini, Matabeleland South, after school authorities allegedly concealed a bullying incident and claimed the victim had tried to commit suicide.

The Grade Four boy was on November 6 taken for treatment at United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) where the doctor noted that he had suffered very serious injuries and that severe force was used to inflict them.

The schoolboy is said to have been brutalised by Grade Seven boys as he was on the verge of testifying in an investigation into sexual relations among pupils at the boarding school.

He was allegedly blindfolded, tied, assaulted, tied with a shoelace on the neck and thrown out of a window, an incident that saw him losing consciousness.

The father of the Grade Four pupil, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the minor, said while there is evidence that his son was a victim of bullying, authorities at the Roman Catholic Church-run learning institution covered up the matter.

He said the incident occurred on October 24.

After the incident, the boy’s father was called and informed that his son had attempted to commit suicide.

He said he rushed to the boarding school in Esigodini to find his son with marks on the neck following the alleged strangulation and his eyes red from choking.

The parent said of concern is that while the incident had occurred at about 3PM, with his son falling unconscious for about 10 minutes, the school only informed him two hours later about the case.

The father, however, said upon getting to the school, his son dismissed the claim that he tried to commit suicide.

“What shook me is that I was told that my child had fallen unconscious for about 10 minutes two hours later.

I was called at 5PM and arrived at the school at about 6PM and only to be informed that the incident occurred at 3PM.

It did not make sense why the school would delay informing me about such a worrying case.

“I was shocked when I was told that my child tried to commit suicide.

This occurred as he was supposed to testify the following Monday in a case involving claims that some pupils were having sexual relations.

But that wasn’t to be as he was attacked on Sunday,” said the concerned parent.

He said upon asking his son what could have transpired leading to him to try and take his life, the boy refuted that he wanted to commit suicide.

“When I quizzed him, he said he never tried to commit suicide using shoelaces.

He told me that he was attacked by a group of Grade Seven boys who blindfolded him using socks and took him to a window where one of them pushed him outside. He said his son told him that he tried to call his friend to help him,” he said.

He said upon learning about the circumstances relating to the matter, he engaged the school as he believed that his son was being bullied.

“The school and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education promised to carry out investigations and nothing has come out.

I then went to the Ministry’s district offices in Esigodini to meet the District Education Director (DEO).

The DEO was not there and I was advised to write a letter and send it through their email which I did and they saw that letter.

I continued to make follow ups with the DEO and on Monday he told me that he has been consulting and the issue is confidential,” said the parent.

“My concern is that such bullying cases are being swept under the carpet.

I had wanted the Ministry to make an investigation on what is going on. We entrusted our kids to them and we expect them to account because we are in constant contact with them and never at any point, did they raise alarm over my child’s behaviour.”

He said he was worried by the lack of action from both the school and ministry officials.

The parent said the lack of decisive action on the matter forced him to withdraw his son from the school.

The school’s headmistress Mrs Sindi Mpofu could not be reached for comment.

Umzingwane DEO Mr Raxon Phiri referred questions to the Provincial Education Director who was not reachable.

Primary and Secondary Education communication and advocacy director Mr Taungana Ndoro said he had not been briefed about the Sacred Heart incident.

“However, the Ministry’s position is that such issues should be investigated at the district level and resolved amicably.

There is also a need to protect the learner by providing pycho-social services through our district and provincial psychologists to ensure that the learner is of sound mind which is necessary for them to continue wanting to go to school and learn.

“These are the normal process that we take. I had wanted to get the exact details from Matabeleland South officials but I couldn’t get through to them,” said Mr Ndoro.

Incidents of bullying are on the rise in schools and recently police had to be called to quell violence after rivalry gangs started attacking each other at Msiteli High School in Mpopoma suburb.  Chronicle

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