School kicks out ‘sinning’ kids

2011-01-29 00:00

THE departments of Education and Social Development and the KZN Legislature have been called on to intervene after some 40 pupils were excluded from a Christian school in Kranskop, allegedly without any formal warning from the school.

Older siblings of some of the pupils, who spoke to Weekend Witness, say their parents still do not know exactly what the children have done. But none of the parents have confronted the school authorities since many of them belong to the KwaSizabantu Mission, which runs the school, some even working as missionaries.

After relatives of five of the pupils sought help from the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), these five, who include a girl in matric, were allowed back.

Domini Servite School is a private school founded in 1986 by the auspice of KwaSizabantu Mission near Maphumulo. The school has about 300 pupils from grades R to 12 and takes boarders in grades seven to 12. It is admired for its impressive academic record and affordable fees, as well as for the spiritual values taught to pupils.

However, it is alleged the school is run by leaders of the church, who act as the governing body (SGB) even though only two of the seven leaders have pupils at the school.

The 40 excluded pupils were reportedly called before the SGB late last year and told their behaviour indicated that they were not happy at the school and that they should move to other schools.

However, no parent was reportedly present in this meeting and nothing formal was written to parents.

Speaking to Weekend Witness, the older siblings of some of the barred children, who claimed to have attended the school themselves, said this was not the first time something like this happened.

In 2006, newspapers reported on the expulsion of pupils, including those in matric. As far as the paper understands, most of these children were never admitted back.

To be accepted back or to get “clearance”, the pupils are allegedly required to “cleanse” themselves spiritually and confess their sins.

This allegedly involves sitting alone for extended periods and writing down sins before confessing to a spiritual adviser , as well as apologising to the SGB and the person allegedly offended against.

A female graduate who spoke to Weekend Witness on condition of anonymity as her parents are members of the mission, said this cleansing process took her sister a whole year to get right. She was allegedly punished for swearing.

Another former pupil, who claims to have been expelled for writing a letter to a girl, said he was never admitted back.

The relatives say the school has failed to provide any evidence of improper conduct by the pupils. They were only asked to “search their souls” and confess their sins, which are not specified.

LRC director Mahendra Chetty confirmed the centre assisted in getting the five pupils back to school. However, he said no formal legal proceeding was instituted.

Chetty said they wrote to the school on Tuesday about the five pupils and by Wednesday they received a report- back that they had been “accepted”.

He said they assumed the school would apply the same standards to the other barred pupils as well.

WEEKEND Witness tried several times to get comment from the school principal and governing body about the allegations.

The principal was contacted last Friday and denied any children had been expelled, but she refused to give a detailed comment. The principal was called again on Tuesday for clarity after the paper received further information about the allegations, but the calls were never returned.

On Thursday, a query was e-mailed to the school. Calls were also made to the chair of the SGB, who said he was in a meeting. When a request was made to call him later, he said the reporter should call the principal, despite being told that she was not returning calls. “Keep trying her,” the reporter was told.

Weekend Witness managed to reach the principal on her cellphone after speaking to the SGB chair. She said she would look into the e-mailed query. Yesterday, the principal was called again on her cellphone, but the school’s administrator answered and said the principal was in a meeting. Then an e-mail was sent and the administrator was called about this, and reminded that the story would run even if a response was not received by the end of business yesterday.

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