Gauteng education department not protecting pupils, says DA

2010-09-15 13:54

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng said the province’s education department was failing to fulfil its mandate to operate schools properly and ensure the safety of pupils after reports of assaults at a school in Heidelberg.

DA provincial education spokesperson Khume Ramulifho said: “It has taken five years of complaints about alleged racism and violence at Hoer Volkskool in Heidelberg for the Gauteng Department of Education to finally react and launch an official investigation.”

Earlier, the Gauteng education department said it would investigate allegations of racist slurs and attacks emanating from the school.

Department spokesperson Charles Phahlane said: “We have asked the principal to come to the office to explain the contents of the allegations. We are putting together a high level investigation into this matter.”

The Star reported that a boy had died, a pregnant teenager had been pelted with stones and a 14-year-old assaulted and taunted with a racial epithet at the school.

“We are looking into the substance of the allegations. Whether this matter was reported before and whatever happened to the investigation,” Phahlane said.

The department would establish whether recommendations were made, whether they were implemented, and if not, why not.

“We are deeply disturbed by reports of such nature,” Phahlane said.

The school’s principal, JH Van Heerden, had a meeting with the department yesterday. The district office also went to the school.
The department appealed to pupils there to ­co-operate with the investigators and thanked them for bringing the matter to the department’s attention.

It could not yet confirm any of the reported allegations and believed there were “always two sides to the story”, hence the investigation.

According to The Star, a white pupil who allegedly racially insulted a black student appeared in the Heidelberg Magistrates Court on Monday and was released into the custody of his parents.

In 2005, a Grade 9 pupil, Happy Thabethe, faxed a letter to then education minister Naledi Pandor complaining of racism against some of her teachers and white school pupils.

In 2006, a 15-year-old Grade 8 pupil, who had just joined the school, was attacked, allegedly by a group of white pupils. The teenager died in hospital.

Ramulifho claimed the Heidelberg police station had confirmed more than 20 cases of violence at the school since 2006.

He said: “If the Gauteng department of education had acted earlier, perhaps many of these incidents at this school could have been avoided.”

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