Education official escapes disciplinary action as Sjambok school stays open

2015-10-13 17:02
Paballo Seanne. Picture: Supplied/AENS/DailySun

Paballo Seanne. Picture: Supplied/AENS/DailySun

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Mpumalanga Education MEC Reginah Mhaule will not take disciplinary action against her departmental head for bungling the process to shut down a private school that beats pupils. 

Mhaule told the legislature that the head of department, Mahlasedi Mhlabane, had been engaging with the Cefups Academy near Mbombela about its use of corporal punishment since 2009, but its owners did not comply. 

Matters came to a head when Deputy Arts and Culture Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi’s niece Paballo Seanne (19) died in July last year after she was allegedly sjambokked for failing a test. 

The department appointed a task team to investigate the incident and the allegations that the R60 000-a-year school was administering corporal punishment.

Mhlabane decided to deregister Cefups Academy following the task team’s finding that pupils were beaten but she apparently did not give the school a chance to rectify its mistake. 

Cefups Academy president Simon Mkhatshwa lodged an urgent application in the North Gauteng High Court, and obtained an order setting aside Mhlabane’s decision to deregister the school. 

The court found that the department did not supply the school with additional affidavits to support its task team’s report. 

It also found that the school should have been furnished with the results of Seanne’s postmortem before the decision to shut it down was enforced. 

The court said Mhlabane should have given the school’s management an opportunity to rectify their mistake, as stipulated in the regulations. 

“We took the resolution to conduct a workshop about learners’ rights at the school since 2009, but the owner frustrated the process. I personally looked at [Mhlabane’s] decision and agreed with her since the school had been engaged [with] since then,” Mhaule said. 

However, the department’s lawyer, Advocate Norman Davis, advised it against opposing the high court order – which set aside the department’s decision to deregister the academy. He said this would be “wasteful expenditure” because it had little chance of success. 

Davis advised that although the decision to deregister the school was the correct one, the department had to redo the entire process and follow all the correct procedures this time around. 

Mhaule said the matter had been referred to lawyers to advise on the next course of action. 

Cefups should have closed its doors at the beginning of this year. 

The school has denied that Seanne died after she was sjambokked and said she drank an antiseptic. 

Seanne’s friend alleged that she was sjambokked for two days in a row after not performing well in maths and English tests. 

The friend said Seanne was given five lashes because she and some of her classmates had failed to obtain 75% in maths. Seanne also received 40 more lashes the next day for failing English, the friend added. 

Mpumalanga police spokesperson Brigadier Selvy Mohlala said a docket on Seanne’s death was taken to the National Prosecuting Authority for a decision whether to prosecute. 

Mohlala said the postmortem results, which would shed light on what actually killed Seanne, had not been released. 

Read more on:    education department  |  mpumalanga  |  child abuse  |  corporal punishment

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