A report into allegations of sexual assault at Parktown Boys' High School in Johannesburg has blown the lid off a number of disturbing practices at the school.
Peter Harris of Harris Nupen Molebatsi Attorneys on Thursday night released the report commissioned by the Gauteng Department of Education during a briefing to parents at the school.
These practices include "sexually predatory behaviour" by senior pupils against junior pupils, a culture of assault and sexual assault under the guise of "initiation practices" and "profoundly shocking" utterances made by teachers in the presence of pupils.
"While it is a problem at most schools, it would appear that this has become a generational practice at Parktown Boys," Harris said.
"The culture of initiation still exists and more needs to be done to ensure that it is completely eradicated."
The elite school has been in the spotlight since its former water polo coach pleaded guilty to 144 counts of sexual assault involving 12 schoolboys.
'These things are hard to stamp out'
"One needs to acknowledge that, unfortunately, since 2009, initiation practices that involved quite severe assaults have taken place and that there have been allegations of severe initiation practices taking place at various camps on various occasions and in various sporting teams over the years," Harris said.
According to Harris, the school has made some commendable steps, installed security cameras, the Guardian app and a range of other measures but that "these things are hard to stamp out".
Harris said abuse takes many forms, whether it be humiliation or extreme physical abuse as in the instance of the events that took place at the school's 2017 water polo camp.
"In relation to the assault that took place on the water polo tour - we've listened to the recording and watched the video… we saw what took place, it's not pleasant.
"That's where a child was lashed. We find that the disciplinary process that was conducted in respect to those responsible was an inappropriately light sentence," Harris said.
It was also found that evidence was presented in terms of a teacher, Educator D, condoning and encouraging initiation practices on sports tours.
The same teacher had also brought a stripper to the school, it was found.
Many incidents of abuse were never reported because of the school's so-called "code of silence", which is a culture of keeping quiet about transgressions or wrongdoing.
"The code of silence is less about honour than it is about covering up abuse and in some cases severe sexual abuse. This is not about telling on your mate, it is about covering up criminal acts," Harris said.
Harris stated that allegations of sexually predatory behaviour of senior pupils against junior pupils, which allegedly took place in 2014 and 2015, and where the alleged perpetrators had already matriculated, were part of a criminal investigation.
"Certain of the statements made by witnesses make for very grim reading, I'm afraid to say. While there are a number of allegations against certain educators, the educators involved are very few in number compared to the total staff complement. We're talking about four or five," Harris said.
The firm also studied a "profoundly shocking" recording of one teacher, labelled as Educator E, speaking to his class.
"The transcript of him addressing learners is one which reflects disgraceful profanity, insults, humiliation, and sexual references as to what takes place in the hostel. He has no concept of how to behave as an educator."
Teachers may have suffered same fate as children
The report made strong recommendations in relation to the employment of staff, including psychometric testing and profiling.
"We also make the point that - in view of the fact that the victim often becomes the perpetrator - it is quite conceivable that certain of the initiation practices, the code of silence, as well as certain of the assaults perpetrated by senior boys on junior boys may well have taken place with the tacit if not complicit consent of certain staff members who themselves, when they were boys at the school, suffered a similar fate," Harris said.
In his bail application the former polo coach makes allegations of how he was treated when he was a pupil at the school.
The report also found that there were at least five or more incidents of drug abuse at the school per year over the past five years.
According to Harris, the vast majority of incidents took place at the hostel.
"We recommend that there needs to be a comprehensive review of the way in which the hostel is governed."
Harris said three boys were currently receiving counselling and six others were on suicide watch.
The Gauteng education department has indicated that several teachers implicated in the abuse laid out in the report could be charged.
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