Pupils sadistically tortured

2014-05-31 00:00

A 14-YEAR-OLD boy has lifted the lid on a three-month spree of shocking alleged torture and abuse, meted out by prefects at a prestigious Pietermaritzburg school’s boarding establishment.

Matthew Opperman of Ladysmith has been moved from Voortrekker Hoërskool after his parents discovered evidence of sadistic acts of assault that included a third-degree burn from a steam iron that went untreated for two weeks.

After his departure from the school, prompted by fears of retribution from his tormentors, he divulged details of the bizarre initiation rituals.

In a statement penned by the teen, he reveals details of widespread assault and torture, allegedly endorsed by staff in charge of the boarding establishment.

The statement provided to Weekend Witness claims:

• Grade 8 boys suffered daily beatings at the hands of matric boys allegedly orchestrated by senior prefects, often with implements like pipes or belts;

• They were forced to take part in the “Volstruis” ritual, during which they were stripped of their clothes and forced to run down a passage while they were struck by older boys;

• Boys were made to take off their clothes while their seniors took photographs of them;

• Boys were made to drink volumes of warm water and vinegar before intensive physical training;

• Pupils were made to beg for money, which was handed to their designated mentor, and if they failed to meet their quota, they were badly beaten; and

• They were branded with a hot iron that caused third-degree burns, which went untreated.

Matthew’s mother, Theresa Charlton, who consented for her son to be named, called for the expulsion of the boys who co-ordinated the initiation.

“What they did to my son was sadistic. They tortured those boys and it has been traumatic for us as a family. I have been battling to deal with this, not only my son,” she said.

“I took him out of that school and I am just concerned about the boys who remain behind because these matrics can still get to them.

“He was so excited in the beginning and then it seemed to progress to something that is unacceptable. I only found out now that they had been made to undress and that they were beaten. Matthew never said anything about it because he was scared,” Charlton said in an exclusive interview with Weekend Witness.

“My ex-husband had noticed marks on his body before and questioned him about it — and he said it was just from rugby.

“When his burn wound wasn’t healing, one of the prefects took him to a teacher who told him that he must not tell his parents, and if we find out, he must say the injury is from rugby.

“He is such a gentle and soft child,” she said.

The boys who orchestrated the alleged assault could now face criminal charges and expulsion.

Voortrekker Hoërskool principal Jan Nel condemned the incident, saying that it tarnished the reputation of a school that produced well-rounded boys.

Nel said that the school would keep the investigation of damning allegations in house, having appointed a panel from their own governing body to be headed by an attorney.

He said that the “ringleader”, known to be a senior prefect, had been suspended and that he felt responsible for all the boys in his care.

However, the Department of Education will now intervene in the matter, with the provincial head of department conducting her own probe into the conduct of the prefects and the teacher in question.

KZN Education Department spokesperson Sihle Mlotshwa said the allegations were serious.

“We as a department view these allegations in the most serious light. There is no way the department cannot intervene.

“The department takes the issue of bullying very seriously and we are going to ensure that we nip this one in the bud,” he said.

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