Disabled pre-teen has HIV

2009-06-30 00:00

A PRE-TEEN boy living with a disability has tested HIV-positive, allegedly after sex between boy pupils at a state-run special school.

The shocking revelation is likely to stir up a hornet’s nest for the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education.

The disabled boy tested HIV-positive after becoming ill last year.

He had previously tested negative in a routine test overseen by a social worker upon changing institutions and entering Ethembeni, a special needs school and boarding establishment in Inchanga.

The Witness understands that the boy had been identified by school staff as being behind the sodomy.

According to the source, the explanation is peculiar, considering that he is physically challenged with limited upper body use, is wheelchair-bound, incontinent and wears nappies.

According to the source, only two care givers have the responsibility of overseeing the 60 children at the boarding establishment after the end of each school day at Ethembeni.

The pupils accepted at the school include the physically disabled and visually impaired and some have mild to moderate intellectual impairment.

While The Witness has learnt that the children are grouped according to their ages in dormitories, it is not clear how their activities are being monitored.

The sexual encounters allegedly occur during shower time and after lights-out.

The Witness understands that shower time is unsupervised since, according to the source, the department believes the children are “entitled to privacy”.

The source added that the social worker tasked with overseeing the issue of how the pupil came to be infected with HIV found that negligence and a lack of supervision were behind the offen­ces.

When the department was presen­ted with this information, it alle­gedly dismissed the finding as “mutual sodomising”.

It allegedly observed that sodomy is a problem experienced by all special schools to a greater or lesser degree.

Other alleged incidents are apparently also being investigated.

The Witness also understands that, while the sodomy issue is largely played out among the older children at the school, boys aged between five to 13 and sharing in a dormitory have started to display similar behaviour after seeing the older boys engaging in sex.

Another source, an expert who does not want to be named, said that while girls develop earlier than boys physically, boys develop earlier sexually than girls, which would explain why the problem of sodomy might be more prominent in this case.

The expert said the interest in sex among special needs children could have resulted from the fact that they sometimes have few inhibitions, and because they see sex as a recreational activity.

The boys’ sexual proclivities could also be blamed on the fact that they might be sensitised to sex after watching television programmes like After Nine, a South African mini-series depicting sensitive issues surrounding gay lifestyles, the expert said.

The expert believes that if the boys are not taught to deal properly with their sexuality, and if they are not inducted into social behaviour, it will pose a serious danger when they return to their homes for holidays.

Education spokeswoman Mbali Thusi said the MEC views these allegations as very disturbing and disheartening.

She said the district manager was at the school last week to conduct a probe into the alleged incident and into allegations of mismanagement.

The ch

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