Pupils tell of terror after stabbing frenzy

2019-10-17 17:04
Jenny Solomons questions MEC for Education, Kwazi Mshengu, about corporal punishment at a heated meeting at Eastwood Community Hall on Wednesday.

Jenny Solomons questions MEC for Education, Kwazi Mshengu, about corporal punishment at a heated meeting at Eastwood Community Hall on Wednesday. (Moeketsi Mamane)

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Pupils who were attacked outside Eastwood Secondary are living in fear after the stabbing frenzy this week which caused the school to be shut down on Wednesday.

The parents of two of the three pupils who were hospitalised for stab wounds in attacks outside the school on Monday and Tuesday said they fear their attackers will come back for them.

Eighteen-year-old Hershel Fynn died from six stab wounds on Tuesday and his friend, Keanon Gouws (18), was hospitalised with stab wounds, after they were cornered by a group of fellow pupils outside the school.

The incident apparently happened because Fynn had confronted the group for having stabbed a girl on Monday during a “bombing” ritual, where matriculants at the school throw eggs and other objects at their peers.

Fynn’s mother, Natalie, told News24 he was a hero who was killed for standing up for the girl. “He was just walking home and he was stabbed,” she said.

A video being circulated on social media shows one of the boys armed with a panga. Previous reports only mentioned knives being used.

Eastwood Secondary will be reopened on Thursday after being shut on Wednesday. There was a heavy police presence outside the school on Wednesday morning.

As matriculants across the country began their exams with Computer Applications Technology, 20 pupils taking the exam from the school were bused under police escort to Alexandra High School to take the examination.

Sources at the school described serious concerns about pupil safety, and told The Witness that pupils cut the school fence and then get outsiders to pass them drugs and weapons.

Gouws’ mother, Roxanne, said she feared a “retaliation” by her son’s attackers. Gouws, who is in Grade 11, was stabbed twice on his left side.

“He never mentioned he was having any trouble with any boys.

“I am so confused because I don’t know what they [the attackers] may do,” she said, adding that Gouws was good friends with Fynn, and the two had played soccer together since they were six years old.

Roxanne Gouws’ (centre) son, Keanon, is recovering in hospital after being stabbed outside Eastwood Secondary School. She is pictured at a community meeting at Eastwood Community Hall on Wednesday.

The mother of the 17-year-old girl who was stabbed, who did not want to be named, believed her daughter was stabbed because she pelted her attackers with something as part of the “bombing” rituals. “It was supposed to be fun, but maybe they didn’t like it because a girl did it to them.”

She said her daughter was stabbed on her left side and the knife just missed her kidney. She has been discharged from hospital. The mother said her daughter ran away in terror to a nearby clinic after being stabbed. She was then taken to hospital by family.

“She is traumatised and may not be able to write her exams. We are worried that there may be repercussions. We told the school but nothing has happened as yet.”

Meanwhile, a woman described on The Witness Facebook page how her 13-year-old brother was left traumatised after seeing the stabbings. “... the boys who stabbed [Fynn] were so cruel that even when he hid behind my 13-year-old brother, they butchered him [Fynn].

“My brother came home shaken to the core and his shirt was left with the deceased boy’s blood,” wrote Prudence Zanele Nene Nqhoaki.

Nomaphelo Masiko wrote: “My son came home shaking and scared. He could not say a word but jumped straight into bed. He said he has never seen such a brutal attack before.”

Police said no arrests had been made.

Eastwood Secondary pupils were bused with a police escort to write their exam at another school on Wednesday morning. 

Operation to halt violence

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Education, Kwazi Mshengu, has pledged to clean up Eastwood Secondary of drugs and dangerous elements, after a pupil was stabbed to death and three others were hospitalised in various acts of violence.

Mshengu had told hundreds of people at Eastwood Community Hall that his department will partner with the Department of Community Safety to conduct the operation in the area, which could be done unannounced. Msunduzi Mayor Mzi Thebolla was also part of the meeting.

The MEC assured parents and residents that the school will be under heavy guard by police. He said psychologists will be deployed to the school today.

Mshengu called for an end to “bombing” rituals, and described the practice as a modern day “Sodom and Gomorrah”.

“It is the act of senseless people. It’s not a game, and it doesn’t make sense.”

He implored the Eastwood community to work with the department to stamp out acts of violence and drug abuse at the school.

“As the department we can only do so much. When something like this happens, people call for the HOD’s [Head of Department’s] head, but nobody asks, ‘where was the community?’

“We must not allow pupils to carry dangerous weapons. Parents must check what their children carry to school.

“Every community member has a responsibility toward pupils and centres of learning. If every one of us can be the champion of safety and security at Eastwood, we will never have to meet like this again.”

The MEC heard complaints of a serious lack of discipline of pupils, who community members said had a complete lack of respect for authority.

At the meeting, a Lifeline social worker, Zinhle Ngcobo, said pupils “made a mockery” of social workers who tried to run workshops, and said the school refused her help because they preferred a coloured social worker.

She claimed social workers were present at the school on Tuesday but were not allowed to intervene in any tensions at the school.

Kaylen Willard (14), a Grade 8 pupil, accused school management of only blaming pupils when bad incidents happened.

“You only hear one side of the story. This is not the first time this is happening.”

Ivy Terry Adams said the girl’s stabbing was an act of gender-based violence and a “lack of respect for women”.

Lucy Wagner complained that pupils did not fear authority because of a lack of corporal punishment.

Another woman, Jenny Solomons, echoed her point.

“Security guards are too scared to intervene. They say you can’t slap your child at home, so take him next door and slap him,” she said to applause.

Mshengu said the department will engage with the school about the concerns raised.

The school’s governing body chairperson, Roy Ram, told News24 that the “bombing” rituals was a yearly headache for management.

“In 2017 we had an issue with 40 learners locked up. We are saying to students, community and parents, this must stop.”

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