Principal removed after Gauteng school circumcision debacle

2015-11-05 21:15
The Fleurhof house where the Noordgesig learners were taken for circumcisions. (Mpho Raborife, News24)

The Fleurhof house where the Noordgesig learners were taken for circumcisions. (Mpho Raborife, News24)

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Johannesburg - The principal of the Noordgesig Primary School has been removed following a debacle involving 40 boys who were taken to an undisclosed location to be circumcised.

"I have taken the decision to immediately remove the principal from the school. There will be a formal disciplinary hearing for her and her two deputies," Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi told parents and residents gathered at the Noordgesig community centre on Thursday evening.

The crowd responded with cheers and applause.

Non-profit organisation Right to Care, which was involved in taking the pupils to a clinic the parents were not aware of, would also be blacklisted from entering any school premises.

Lesufi said a department report on the incident would be handed over as part of the disciplinary hearings against principal Cindy Tsotsotso and her two deputies.

Before Lesufi spoke about the principal, residents chanted "she must go".

Lesufi said only three boys were actually circumcised.

Assaulted with broomsticks

Parents signed consent forms for the procedure, but the consent letters they received apparently did not specify where the circumcisions would be done.

In previous years, the school had partnered with a non-government organisation aligned with the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto. This year, however, the children were taken to a new venue, the Fleurhof Clinic.

After receiving complaints from parents and community members, Right to Care responded by terminating its contract with the clinic.

Lesufi said his department received two complaints from parents, who alleged Tsotsotso allowed Right to Care to pick up 40 boys on October 16 to be circumcised. The principal apparently did not know where the pupils would be taken.

According to the complainants some children got home as late as 21:00 that night, while the last group returned at 03:30 the next morning. 

The department also heard that some pupils were assaulted with broomsticks. 

Earlier in the week, a parent, Dwain Williams, told News24 that his son Duran ran home to Noordgesig from the Fleurhof house - about 10km - after being beaten.

"They left in the morning, and he came back early around 13:00. His shoes were gone, he was wet, so I asked him where he [came] from and what happened.

"He then explained to me that... they were hit with brooms and so he ran away. There were two that ran away. At first I didn't believe him, until I came to the school to ask questions and... other parents were also here."

The department found that no pupils had required medical attention. 

'Why didn't they come with the kids?'

The three circumcised pupils would receive counselling by an independent psychologist. One of the three had also signed his own consent form.

Earlier on Thursday, the manager of the clinic in Fleurhof denied any wrongdoing.

In an exclusive interview with News24, Cynthia Gama said she was unfairly getting all the blame following the uproar by angry parents.

When asked why the boys were dropped off so late, Gama said the boys had been brought to the house in buses, but in the evening, when the boys were supposed to be taken home, one of the drivers said he had had a puncture.

When told about the allegations by the parents that their children were beaten with brooms, among other things, she said no parent had come to the house to confront her or to ask questions.

"Why didn't they come with the kids? I would have lined my staff up and asked the kids to point out which one hit them."

Read more on:    panyaza lesufi  |  johannesburg  |  education  |  circumcision

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