Fiery prank injures pupil

2010-05-18 00:00

THE parents of an Alex High School boarder want answers after someone burnt their 14-year-old son’s feet while he slept. It is assumed that someone sprayed deodorant and lit it, forming a mini-flamethrower, as a prank.

The Ashdown parents, who wanted their names withheld to protect their son, said they did not expect those in authority to be unable to account for what happens to children when parents are not around.

The ninth grader called his parents just after midnight on Sunday morning to report the matter, but did not know who was responsible.

The parents, who were in Durban at the time of the call, said they phoned the school matron to find out what had happened, but discovered she was not aware of the incident. The matron allegedly promised to check on their son, but the parents said they received no feedback.

“When I called the second time, the matron told me she had sent the boarding master to check on the situation. We called again and spoke to the boarding master, who told us he was not sure what happened but told me he suspects that someone started a fire,” the father told The Witness.

The injured teen claims to have first gone to the boarding master for assistance. He apparently received no response when he knocked on the boarding master’s door and decided to call his parents.

According to the parents, the blanket their son slept in has a 15-centimetre hole.

While the mother said she still has logs of the time she received the call from her son on Sunday morning, the details of when this occurred and other information differ from information released by the Education Department.

Departmental spokesperson Mbali Thusi said the incident happened at 11 pm on Saturday. Thusi claims the teen’s dorm mates also got up when the pupil was awoken by the pain. These pupils apparently attempted to get the attention of the boarding master on duty while the teen called his parents. She said it was the other boys who woke the matron, who informed the superintendent. However, the parents told the paper that only one pupil was up when they got to the dorm.

The father said he found it disappointing that when they arrived at the school an hour after the call from their son, those in authority still had no answers for them.

“I asked to go to the dorm after seeing my son’s blistered and swollen feet when it was clear that the only explanation we were going to get was they don’t know what happened,” said the visibly upset father.

In questioning the pupil the man said he learnt that the boys often spray a can of deodorant in front of a lighter.

While Thusi attests that it is assumed that there has been such incidents in the past at the school, the parents claim the boarding master seemed as surprised as they were at the news of this happening at the school.

The parents have decided to take their son out of the hostel. They also plan to open a case. The Witness understands that the superintendent at the school called a meeting with the boarders on Sunday, informing them that a full investigation would be conducted. Both the principal and the superintendent have called the parents to check on the boy’s status.

Thusi said incidents of bullying or initiation are a concern. She said it is for this reason that schools have a code of conduct to deal with such behaviour. The boys parents said they would know the extent of the injuries after their son has ended the five-day course of treatment he is currently receiving.

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