Identify and eradicate the underlying evil

2014-06-13 00:00

I WRITE this letter as parent and former governing body member of Voortrekker High School.

At the outset, I need to record that I have no involvement, personally or professionally, in the inquiry currently under way into the most unfortunate incidents that occurred over a period of time at the school’s hostel. I need to make it equally clear that I do not condone these practices and, in fact, find them distasteful and reprehensible.

I find it heartening to learn that it is the intention of the school to do everything in its power to uncover the truth. This means not only unearthing the detail of the unlawful practices which have taken place and the identities of the wrongdoers, but also determining the school’s involvement in the conception and nurturing of these practices, as well as its failure to take steps to eradicate them. It seems to me as if these practices, which date back many years, may have been tolerated by the school, allowing a culture to develop to which pupils were introduced on their arrival and during their stay at the hostel. This culture was allowed to perpetuate and now that it has been uncovered, the approach appears to be to exculpate the school of blame and to crucify certain individuals, both pupils and teachers, for the sins of the school.

By making this statement, I am not for one moment suggesting that the pupils and teachers who were involved should go unpunished. What I am advocating though is that the issue be tackled in a constructive way so that the underlying evil can be identified and once and for all be eradicated, not only at Voortrekker, but at the many schools countrywide where similar practices exist.

Voortekker, in fact, has the ideal opportunity, an opportunity not yet lost, to be pioneers by addressing the issue of initiation and assaults at school level. It has the environment in which these practices occurred, the perpetrators, the supervisors and the victims at its disposal to facilitate a thorough and independent forensic investigation into the causes of and the solutions to the problem. Only once the truth is known, can proper and effective measures be put in place to arrest the situation.

Instead of grasping the nettle, the school and its governing body are seemingly embarking on a crusade which is indicative of a lack of insight into the crux of the problem, namely why the school permitted this culture to become inculcated into the traditions of the hostel.

My plea is for the school, as a collective, to take responsibility, and for this I, as a former member of the governing body, also accept culpability for the situation in which it has been allowed to develop and pledge to be proactive in the eradication thereof.

The feedback I get of the inquiry is that the school, probably in an endeavour to save face for its own omissions, has been advised, ill-advised in my view, to cling to and apply outdated principles of retribution without embracing the modern concept of restorative justice.

I implore the school to stand up and take responsibility for these most unfortunate events and then to deal with the matter in a way whereby the damage to the school, the pupils who perpetrated these abhorrent practices, and the victims, can be minimised.

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