'Our kids will never be the same' - parents on circumcision fiasco

2016-09-08 10:16
FILE: Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi talking to Noordgesig Primary school parents. (Supplied)

FILE: Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi talking to Noordgesig Primary school parents. (Supplied)

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Johannesburg - Nearly a year after the horror circumcisions at the Noordgesig Primary School in Soweto, parents say their children will never be the same again. 

“There are a couple of differences in my son, but the main concern is, he is not open anymore. When you shout at him, he starts crying or he isolates himself,” Vernon Brink said.

Brink said his son, in Grade 5, was one of the 40 boys taken to the Fleurhof clinic, to be circumcised, in October last year.

Only three boys were circumcised. Brink’s son avoided being circumcised. He returned home on the school bus.

“My son came home, banged on the door and shouted, 'daddy, daddy, daddy',” Brink said.

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

Non-profit organisation Right to Care, took the pupils to the clinic, which was operating from a small house.

The clinic’s manager, Cynthia Gama, has denied any wrongdoing. She told News24 in November last year that she was shocked when parents claimed they knew nothing about where the children were taken.

Crying and hurt

Another parent, Bronwen Baatjies, said they thought the forms they got from the school were consent forms. They turned out not to be, she said.

Baatjies lives near the school. She said parents waited till about 20:00 for their children to return, but they never arrived.

“As a parent you start to panic and we started phoning the circumcision clinics, only to find out they are only opened till 16:00 in the afternoons.”

Her son returned on the school bus at 02:00 the next morning. 

“I was crying and hurt, many things were running through my mind. Luckily he was not circumcised,” she said. 

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

The children described the room to their parents as dark and bloody. They complained about being assaulted with broomsticks. 

“I am really hurt because we never got answers from the school. I don’t allow my son to attend any of the school events,” said another parent, Antoinette Maclellan. 

Maclellan said her son was terrified after the circumcisions and had to attend counselling sessions.

Cleoreese Matthews said her son arrived home after 18:00. 

Bloody room

“My son lied and said he got dropped by the school transport. I only found out two days later that he walked home through a dangerous veld,” Matthews said.

“I wanted to kill someone. My son changed completely, I need to beg him to get something out of him.”

She said her son ran away when he saw the bloody room and heard the other boys crying.

“My son said he could see how skew the other boys were circumcised,” she said.

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi subsequently visited the school and removed the principal.

The principal apparently did not know where the boys were.

Octavia Petersen, the aunt of one of the boys, said Lesufi promised he would return for a follow-up visit, but never did.

Several attempts to contact the education department for comment were unsuccessful.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  culture  |  circumcision

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