Angry parents demand answers about dodgy circumcisions

2015-11-04 07:21
Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi talking to Noordgesig Primary school parents. (Supplied)

Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi talking to Noordgesig Primary school parents. (Supplied)

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Johannesburg - A group of angry parents have demanded answers from Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi about why their children were taken to an undisclosed place for circumcision after parents had signed a consent form that they be circumcised at a hospital.

A large group of parents and residents stood outside Noordgesig Primary School's main gate on Tuesday afternoon demanding to be addressed by Lesufi.

Three parents told News24 that their children were part of the group of 40 boys who were taken for circumcision about three weeks ago.

"Our children went for circumcision three weeks back on a Friday. We as the parents signed a consent form that our children were going to go to Bara [Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital]. But our children did not go to Bara, our children went to a house in Fleurhof," an angry Eunice Swartz said.

She said the boys were picked up from school during school hours at about 10:00 and most were only returned home in the early hours of the following day.

"Some of them were dropped [between] 01:00 and 04:00."

Swartz said she heard that only three of the boys were circumcised, while some were severely beaten with broom sticks and others fled out of fear. Her son had not been circumcised, she said.

Dwain Williams told News24 that his son Duran ran home to Noordgesig from the Fleurhof house - about 10km - after being beaten.

'Hit with brooms'

"They left in the morning, and he came back early around 13:00. His shoes were gone, he was wet, so I asked him where he [came] from and what happened.

"He then explained to me that... they were hit with brooms and so he ran away. There were two that ran away. At first I didn't believe him, until I came to the school to ask questions and... other parents were also here."

Williams and many parents had complained that they were not allowed to enter the school's premises and that they were always told to leave their children at the gate.

Since the circumcisions, parents have been demanding to speak to the school's principal but they say their requests have fallen on deaf ears.

They say when they want to speak to the principal, they are told to make an appointment and when the appointment date arrives, she was either busy or they were asked to reschedule.

Williams said his son described the house where they were taken and what had happened when they arrived. No school officials were present at the house, his son told him.

He said his son was traumatised after the incident, but seemed to be getting better.

"He's [attending] school, but I'm waiting for him every day. I fetch him from school and bring him to school. I don't want him to come alone like he used to. He was a boy that loved school but now he doubts [it]."

Williams said he was confident that Lesufi would deal with the problems at the school.

State of panic

Walter Mokotedi, another parent whose 9-year-old son was taken for circumcision, said his son only returned home in the early hours of the morning.

"My son went to school at 07:30 in the morning. Then at 14:00 there was no sign of the child. Then by 22:00 he was still not home."

Walter said he and his wife were in a state of panic wondering where their son Monas was.

"We [were] waiting at the gate with the other parents. While we were standing there, a car arrived and dropped the children off, it was around 01.00am.

"When we went to confront the principal the following day we found her sitting on a chair with a sangoma on the floor, in her office.

"There were bones on the floor. Why was that sangoma there and why was she throwing bones?

"When we asked her, she didn't want to answer us, the parents, she said she would only talk to the police.

"When we called the police they told us we were making it all up. That is why we are here, doing this."

Trust broken

Mokotedi said he wanted Lesufi to remove the principal from the school because the parents no longer trusted her with their children.

After speaking to members of the department as well as the school's governing body on Tuesday morning, Lesufi met with parents and listened to their grievances and accepted a memorandum.

Addressing media after the meeting, Lesufi said the different matters at the school would be investigated.

Regarding the circumcisions, Lesufi said the school had a long running partnership with the Department of Health which assisted in the circumcision of young boys.

"This has been a practice for the last 10 years I'm told. But unfortunately something went terribly wrong this time.

"Parents signed consent forms so they agreed that their children be taken for circumcision, but the conditions in which the circumcision took place...there are disputed facts about those conditions."

He said he would receive a more detailed report on the school's circumcision programme on Wednesday and would give feedback on the matter, among other things, to the parents at the meeting on Thursday.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  circumcision  |  tradition

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