Abuse horror at city school

2016-06-27 13:42


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Pietermaritzburg - A guidance counsellor from a prominent Pietermaritzburg primary school in the city’s suburbs is expected to appear in court today for allegedly molesting a seven-year-old pupil.

According to a source, it is believed more than one child could have fallen victim to the alleged molester.

Heartbroken and infuriated after placing their trust in the counsellor to mend their child’s problematic behaviour, the boy’s family are asking for the full might of the law in handing down punishment.

They are also appealing for parents of any other children who may have been molested to also come forward.

The man, believed to be in his early 30s, was arrested in the early hours of Friday morning after police spent hours tracing his whereabouts.

His identity as well as the name of the school that employed him, which are both known to The Witness, cannot be revealed yet due to the sensitivity of the case.

It is believed the man was dismissed from the school a few days before his arrest, but this could not be confirmed.

During his first year of schooling in Grade R, at age five, the boy’s parents last year consented to him attending regular sessions with the school’s guidance counsellor, who is based at the school.

It is believed the boy showed signs of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), impulsivity and attention-seeking behaviour, which affected his conduct in class.

With regular feedback from the counsellor on the pupil’s progress, his parents were pleased when his academic and sporting performances had increased significantly this year.

However, red flags were raised about a month ago when the pupil started describing what his parents thought were suspicious games and activities being played during the counselling sessions.

Describing the physical role-play games, the boy alleged his counsellor would sometimes “pretend” they were monsters or dogs in activities that included tickling and soft tackling.

After immediately raising their concerns with the school’s principal — who allegedly promised to investigate the matter — earlier this month, the parents took the boy to the District Surgeon.

The doctor reportedly confirmed their child had been molested with signs of extensive anal scarring.

“I cannot describe how disturbing it was hearing the results and knowing this has happened to our child who we send to school thinking he is in a safe environment. It takes so much to restrain the disappointment and the anger from making you lose it,” the boy’s distraught father said.

A case was opened at the Alexandra police station, which was then transferred to the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit (FCS) for investigation.

According to a police source, officers worked tirelessly from Thursday evening to try and trace the counsellor, because the address given to the school by him was allegedly incorrect.

Eventually, after hours of gathering information, the man was found and arrested at a house in Epworth.

The man is due to appear at the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court today.

In a response by the counsellor, which was forwarded to the school principal during their internal investigation, details of the pupil’s progress and their activities during the sessions are outlined.

In the report, which The Witness has in its possession, intervention was done through a “less formal, child-directed approach” with activities ranging from drawing and puzzles to “imaginative play” with soldiers and cars.

“At times [the pupil] encouraged rough and tumble play, jumping on myself or encouraging me to be a monster that chases him, at times wanting to be tackled onto the soft bean bags,” the response read. “… Respectful boundaries of contact were maintained and encouraged.”

Numerous attempts to contact the school’s principal yesterday were unsuccessful.

Speaking to The Witness, the boy’s father said he hopes justice will be served and that parents whose children may have gone through the same ordeal will come forward.

The father of two other young pupils at the school who had been seeing the same counsellor said he had spoken to his children and was very concerned at what they had told him. “The eldest said the counsellor would sit on the bean bags with him and give him hugs, touch his leg and kiss him on the head. My child said he thought maybe the counsellor was gay, but thought it best not to say anything.”

The father was very upset that the school had not alerted the parents. “This is a school that does not care. I will call the principal first thing tomorrow.”

The father described the counsellor as a “very placid guy” who had seemed to go out of his way to care for the children. He said he was also involved in extracurricular activities and had encouraged his children to participate in these.

The chairperson of the school’s governing body (SGB) said in a statement last night that the SGB had received two complaints from parents about the alleged “misconduct of the staff member” who was employed by the SGB.

“Due to the potential seriousness of the matter the employee has been suspended pending an investigation. The matter has also been reported to the Department of Education. The SGB has decided that the investigation will be conducted by independent experts and in close liaison with the Department of Education.”

He said the school had been contacted by the SAPS and they had provided the information requested regarding the matter.

“We have since been informed that the employee concerned has been arrested but we are not aware of details of the charges. The SGB will has been and will continue to co-operate fully with SAPS regarding this matter,” he said.

In May last year, The Witness reported that a six-month-old baby had allegedly been raped at a crèche in the city. While bathing the child, the mother had spotted bruises and swelling in her baby’s genital area, and after rushing to hospital, a doctor had reportedly confirmed the baby was sexually molested. No arrests have since been made.

In March The Witness reported that convicted sex offender Benn Pieters was working with children at his Tall Oaks education facility in Athlone. Pieters was ordered not to work with children in terms of an order of court. He had been working full-time at the facility for three years. He subsequently closed the school. Police said they were investigating the matter.

Read more on:    pietermaritzbrug  |  school  |  abuse

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