School suspends cook seen beating pupil in video clip

School desks. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)
School desks. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

Johannesburg - The woman seen in a short video clip beating a pupil from a special needs school in a bus has been charged with assault and suspended from by the Johannesburg school.

This follows the surfacing of a short video showing a woman on a school bus beating a Grade 8 pupil, who has a bipolar disorder, which is characterised by extreme shifts in mood, energy and functioning.

In the clip which went viral, the bus driver intervenes and says, "myekele (leave her alone)", but the woman continues beating the child.

The driver pulls the woman off the pupil and, together with another pupil, they then aggressively push the pupil off the bus.

The pupil tries to resist being forced off the bus and the other pupil picks her up and leaves her on the side of the pavement, before rushing back into the bus.

The principal of the school, whose name is known to News24 but has not been published to protect the pupil, said on Friday, September 8, that the school bus was taking the children home when there was an argument between the pupil and the woman contracted to cook for the school.

"The child swore at the lady and she also swore at the child. The woman then hit the child and the child hit her back, but as an elder she should have known better."

The principal of the Johannesburg special needs government school said the woman did not know the pupil suffered from a bipolar disorder.

Disciplinary action against driver

"The child had reached home, but she kept fighting and the driver was intervening. He could not drive while the situation was happening. The child did not want to get off the bus."

He said the driver stopped the altercation and got the child off the bus.

"We don't condone the actions of the woman. We helped the mother lay charges against the woman. The woman was arrested and she is out on bail. She has also been suspended from the school."

Gauteng education department spokesperson Steve Mabona confirmed that the woman had been suspended from the school and that criminal charges had been laid against her.

He said disciplinary action would be taken against the driver.  

The bus driver was also suspended. 

"As the department, we are very disappointed about the incident because we are talking about learners who need special care, because they are living with disability. We need officials who will always take cognisance that these learners need special care.

"We are not going to tolerate any ill-treatment of our learners by our officials," Mabona said.

Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said extra care needed to be afforded to learners with "disabilities".

"It is shocking to see the escalating incidents of assault taking place in our schools, as a department we will act vigorously in making sure that the perpetrators face the might of the law."                     

Discrimination and mistreatment

The SA Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) welcomed the action against the school staff member, but added that the video footage highlights the mistreatment that many people with mental disabilities still face.

"Persons with mental disabilities are often vulnerable to abuse and discrimination, and children with mental disabilities especially need our protection and care," said SAFMH programme manager Marthé Kotze in a statement on Monday.

"The fact that adults who are entrusted with the care of vulnerable children would physically and verbally abuse them in this way is shocking and is a blatant violation of the learner’s human rights." 

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