Cape Town mom lays assault charge against son's teacher

Three days after the alleged assault, the pupil still had marks on his back. (Supplied)
Three days after the alleged assault, the pupil still had marks on his back. (Supplied)

*This story has been updated.

A Cape Town mother has laid a criminal charge against one of her Grade 1 son's teachers after the boy came home with a bloodied mouth and cane marks on his back.

The 7-year-old is alleged to have been shoved and pushed, resulting in him knocking his mouth against a desk. He also had injuries to his back, said to have been caused by the lashes.

READ: Corporal punishment claims rock Paarl Boys' High School

The child's mother, who will not be named to protect her son’s identity, said the little boy refuses to go back to the primary school in Woodstock and has been at home for almost a week.

She enrolled him at the school as she is employed just outside the city centre as a domestic worker. She and the boy travel 60km every weekday by bus.

Last Monday, she said, her son returned from school wearing a bloodied shirt.

"I questioned him about what had happened and he said his mouth had bled. I asked if he had fallen, but he just looked at me, too scared to talk."

The mother said the teacher had also sent her a letter asking to be contacted urgently. The teacher is apparently a "remedial teacher", and not the child's class teacher.

"I called the school the next day and we set up a meeting for 14:00. But the school called back and made the appointment for the next day as this was when the governing body was available. I asked what it was about because it sounded serious, but the receptionist didn't want to say."

'Bleeding'

At the meeting, she was told that her son had shown behavioural issues and presented her with a list of supposed transgressions.

"I found this strange, because whenever I had communicated with his teacher I was told that everything was fine. Why didn't she tell me about any of this before?"

Her son told her that on Wednesday night what had allegedly happened at school.

"He first told me his back was sore. When he got in the bath, I saw his back had been hurt. I asked him what happened and he said [his teacher] had hit him," she said.

"He told me that his teacher wanted to move him to another class and he didn't want to go because he didn't know anyone there. She grabbed and pushed him. His mouth knocked against the desk, causing the bleeding and the blood on his shirt.

"He also got hit on his back with a stick which he told me she kept in her cupboard."

Her son was also severely distressed after the teacher threatened that she would "shoot him", the mother said.

'I'm sorry, please don't beat me'

She had asked her employer to accompany her to the school the next day, but the principal refused to discuss the matter with him present, the mother said.

She insisted that she would be more comfortable if he was with her, but this was refused. The meeting did not take place.

"I feel so bad. He told me she always picked on him and never took his complaints seriously," the dejected mother said.

She took her son to a doctor and laid a criminal charge with police against the teacher.

A complaint had also been filed with the Western Cape education department (WCED), although the mother said she was trying to find her son another school.

"He is traumatised. He has nightmares and cries out, 'I'm sorry, please don't beat me.' When he wakes up during the night, he asks me to pray for him [because he is scared]."

Teacher due in court

WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the matter was being investigated.

"The WCED is aware of the allegations. Given that the teacher accused of the alleged incident is a school governing body appointee, the [department] advised that the SGB investigate the incident in terms of the Abuse No More protocol," she said.

"The child has been referred to a WCED school social worker for counselling support."

Police spokesperson Captain FC van Wyk said a common assault case had been registered at Woodstock police for investigation.

"A 39-year-old suspect was charged and given a warning to appear in the Cape Town Magistrate's Court on June 11," he confirmed.

Corporal punishment stats

Meanwhile, the province's Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said the latest General Household Survey released by Statistics South Africa revealed that the Western Cape had the lowest number of corporal punishment incidents in 2018.

Last year, 1.1% of the province's pupils reported to have experienced corporal punishment, followed by Gauteng with 1.4% and Mpumalanga with 3.3%.

The Eastern Cape had the highest reported corporal punishment incidents at 11.5%.

"The WCED views incidents of corporal punishment in a very serious light, and while the number of cases reported independently to Stats SA remains low, the department takes all allegations brought to its attention extremely seriously," Schäfer said in a statement.

"The department conducts full investigations into all cases reported and charges anyone found guilty of practicing corporal punishment. The WCED understands the difficulties that some learners pose, and therefore also provides extensive training and support to schools on discipline and positive behaviour programmes via our district offices."

Corporal punishment is illegal in terms of the South African Schools Act.

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