Answers wanted

2016-11-29 06:00
Wynberg girls High school learners say they are sick and tired of being lied to that they made their statement public so that they get help from the outside world. PHOTO: tiyese jeranji

Wynberg girls High school learners say they are sick and tired of being lied to that they made their statement public so that they get help from the outside world. PHOTO: tiyese jeranji

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Learners of Wynberg Girls’ High School say the education department’s investigation processes are flawed.

The department sent a district official and a circuit manager to look into allegations made against a staff member of Waterloo House following a statement sent out by boarders.

The learners who picketed in front of their school last Friday said they had been told the investigation would be done a one-on-one basis to get to the bottom of the statement but they had been surprised when they found there were four people talking to one learner.

“This is not what we were told. Having four adults against one learner is very intimidating. We are forced to speak or else there is no case. We don’t feel it is right.

“We want to get to the bottom of this but the way that it’s done is not fair. It’s intimidating and you can’t express yourself openly because of all these people in front of you,” says a Grade 11 learner.

The picketing learners also claimed the department was only out to find out who published the statement instead of investigating the allegations in it.

“All you get is: ‘Who made this statement? Who published it?’ That is not the matter; what matters is that we want the contents of the statement investigated – not who posted it.

“We are sick and tired of being lied to all the time. They say they are investigating, but you never hear anything thereafter,” says a Grade 10 learner.

Some of the issues raised in the statement include:

  • The house mother allegedly told white learners that they were in danger and that the threat came from black learners.
  • The house mother seems to believe “we are ‘sex-crazed’, she slut shames us and offers condoms to learners without them asking for it”.
  •  She allegedly also lies about girls to other staff members – apparently to further her own agenda and paint girls negatively, in an effort to try to get rid of them.

“She told staff members that all learners from Masiphumelele have sexually transmitted infections, which is not true. We demand that these vicious lies stop,” the statement reads.

The picketing learners said they had kept quiet about their concerns as they were afraid that their scholarships would be taken away, but that caused them to underperform as they were demoralised, they said.

UCT students, parents and other staff members of the boarding house came out in support of the picketing learners.

One employee of the boarding house claims everything in the statement is true.

“The girls didn’t lie. All they said there is the absolute truth and I have seen it with my own eyes. The house matron is racist. She tells them things that these children should not be exposed to.

“The way the investigations are being conducted is not satisfactory. Why are they only interviewing learners? They should also come to us as staff members – we have a lot to talk about. The learners will feel intimidated. I believe there is a strong case here and the learners have had enough. The matter has been swept under the carpet because the house mother is friends with the principal.”

“Even us staff are treated with no respect by the house mother. This has been going on for years and it’s time that something is done about it,” says the staff member.

The picketing learners continued to sing and dance on Friday until the school principal, Shirley Harding, addressed them.

“We have launched an investigation into the complaints and allegations and we will issue a statement once we have received and assessed the findings of the investigations.”

Jessica Shelver, spokesperson of the department of education, says there was one interviewee and one scribe present.

“In addition to this, the circuit manager was present at the interviews to ensure that they did not feel intimidated as she had promised in the meeting that she had with the learners. One of the learners, whilst being interviewed, stated that she felt intimidated because she only expected one person to do the interview. It was explained to the learners that one person is a scribe and one would ask the questions and the other official (the circuit manager) was there to support the learner. After each interview, the circuit manager asked the learners if they felt intimidated and their response was: ‘Not at all.’”

Shelver says the questions asked were related to the issues raised in the learners’ statement and all roleplayers would be interviewed during the investigation.

Learners are reminded that they can report any serious concerns directly to the department via the Safe Schools hotline on 0800 454 647.

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