‘Teacher made our kids vegans and atheists’

A Cape Town teacher is in hot water after some of her pupils decided to follow in her footsteps and become vegetarians.

Some parents believe their children’s eating habits have turned them away from Christianity and one has even consulted a “prophet” to change her son’s mind about vegetarianism.

Melanie Thomet, who teaches English at De Kuilen High School in Kuils River, is “a vegan and an animal rights activist”.

“I go to many animal rights protests. I do not hide it. The children see it on my social-media pages and if they ask me about it I tell them,” Thomet told City Press’ sister paper, Rapport.

Maria Carstens’ grandson is in Grade 11 at the school and has become a vegetarian. Carstens is furious.

“I only get R300 welfare money for him and now if I make hot dogs, he gives the Viennas back to me. If I make tomato stew in the evening, I can’t make vegetables specially for him, can I? But he can’t live on only bread and pasta,” said Carstens.

She and a handful of parents have reported Thomet to principal Herman Mellet, who passed their complaint on to the Western Cape education department.

“The parents feel it’s a kind of indoctrination,” said Mellet. “Look, if the kids want to eat plants, they can eat plants, but the whole thing is alienating the children from their parents. Melanie is an excellent teacher, but she is an activist and a little unorthodox.”

The parents’ complaint has been rejected by the department.

“We found that the teacher did not behave inappropriately,” said Paddy Attwell, spokesperson for the department.

Now Mellet has lodged a complaint with the SA Council for Educators, which is investigating.

“I have my duty towards the children and the parents,” explained Mellet.

Some parents are taking matters into their own hands. Cynthia Herbst kept her son out of school for two days “and took him to a prophet in Hermanus” because he had stopped eating meat and turned his back on religion.

“My son has now also decided he no longer believes in God. It all started when he stopped eating meat. That’s why we took him to two of [Prophet] William Undi’s services just to show him Jesus still exists.”

Carstens says her grandson does not believe in God any more.

“He is furious with me. He told me to my face that he hates me because I never told him there is no God and that animals also have rights.”

The pupils’ beliefs and their eating habits have nothing to do with each other, says Thomet, who has organised an animal rights club at the school.

“It’s absolutely absurd. There are Christian and Muslim pupils at the school who are also vegetarians. I am not an atheist, but I’m not a Christian. I believe in living a life that does the least harm.”

She is not worried about Mellet’s complaint to the SA Council for Educators. “The only reason I am being targeted is because my beliefs are not mainstream.”

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