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School CP - June 2001
The Teacher, Johannesburg, June 2001
Dungeons and sjamboks in school's reign of terror
Pupils at an exclusive school in Nelspruit are being subjected to cruel punishment, writes Justin Arenstein
Photo: Zenzele Knulase/African Eye News
Mpumalanga politicians took time off from their professional duties late last month to voice their outrage at the alleged public flogging and systematic abuse of children attending an exclusive high school in Nelspruit, the provincial capital.
The toyi-toying pupils included girls with sjambok welts on their arms and chests, and traumatised children who told shocked officials how they had been sentenced to solitary confinement in a faeces-filled "dungeon" for even minor infringements.
Cefups Academy was forced to close after roughly 600 pupils revolted against daily beatings and marched on the provincial legislature to show the welts and raw wounds on their backs, legs and buttocks.
The graphic evidence that corporal punishment is still being administered illegally, in contravention of the SA Schools Act, has forced Mpumalanga education MEC Craig Padayachee to order urgent police investigations and a separate judicial commission to probe the wider human rights abuses.
Outraged legislature members demanded more, however, insisting that Cefups president Simon Mkhatshwa be criminally charged and that the school be probed for tax evasion and unfair labour practices, among others.
Two MECs and outspoken Mpumalanga politician Jackson Mthembu told the legislature how their own children had been publicly sjambokked at the academy. "It's shocking. We knew our children had been beaten, but I had no idea the floggings were so severe or so common. The tensions at the school have to be addressed, or we will see pupils die or teachers murdered. It is desperate," said Mthembu.
"The paradox is that the school boasts a 97% exam pass rate, but it is obviously the result of a reign of terror that will explode in American-style violence unless something is done."
Padayachee pledged to report back to Mthembu and the legislature within 60 days and said the proposed commission would also probe claims that pupils were stripped naked in public and forced to live in unsanitary conditions in under-equipped dormitories.
Mkhatshwa is no stranger to controversy. He was sentenced to three months in jail or a R1000 fine in 1999 after being convicted for publicly sjambokking the academy's English teacher, Lindie Maphanga. He also appeared in court in 1997 after allegedly squeezing and twisting a 19-year-old pupil's testicles in front of the school assembly because the youth had been caught sleeping in class. The assault charges were dismissed because witnesses were too scared to testify against Mkhatshwa.
Xolani Mkhwanazi, a grade 9 pupil who spoke to the media about the alleged abuse, was allegedly beaten for a second time last month for allegedly bringing the school into disrepute.
Mkhwanazi was one of more than 20 pupils who showed education officials welts and scabs from sjambok beatings on their buttocks, backs and legs.
A 12-year-old pupil, who was too scared to be named, told officials that pupils were terrified of being locked up in solitary confinement for up to two days at a time in "Simbaland" - a small, dank room next to the dormitory's leaking toilets. Urine- and faeces-tainted water seeps into the room, making it almost impossible to breathe, the boy said, adding that "simba" is the SiSwati and isiZulu word for faeces.
Provincial Congress of SA Students representative Luthando Shongwe said the organisation was worried about the "dangerously unsanitary conditions" at the school, where hundreds of pupils are forced to wash with cold water in the open because of inadequate bathroom facilities. Shongwe also said Cefups had failed to provide any of the advanced science or computer facilities promised in the school prospectus.
The R18 600-a-year high school caters to pupils from Swaziland, Gauteng and surrounding areas, and boasts a high exam pass rate. It claims to offer pupils one-on-one tuition in a "peaceful rural setting".
- African Eye News Service
- The Teacher/M&G Media, Johannesburg, June 2001.
Times of Swaziland, Mbabane, Swaziland, 4 June 2001
Investigation into abuses at Cefups launched
MBABANE - The South African Human Rights Association has launched an investigation into reported public floggings and other abuses at Cefups academy, a prestige private school in Mpumalanga that has almost half the number of students being Swazis.
According to an article published by the Sunday World, Charlotte McClain, a human rights commissioner, announced the probe after leading a fact-finding mission to the strife-torn Cefups academy.
She said the commission intervened after newspapers published photographs of pupils sporting scars, scabs and raw wounds from reported sjambok beatings.
McClain said that Simon Mkhatjwa, the president of Cefups, acknowledged that the school had serious problems with discipline, drugs and alcohol.
"We also met with a pupil representative who indicated that one more (beating) had occurred since the matter was brought to parent's attention on Sunday, (May 20, 2001)," she said.
The unnamed pupil warned that pupils were concerned about a reported instruction that teachers should stop using sjamboks but could use canes instead. Even private schools are bound by the School Act (of South Africa), which explicitly outlaws corporal punishment," said McClain.
She stressed that the human rights commission would not interfere with police and provincial investigations.
On Monday McClain met with Craig Padayachee, Mpumalanga's provincial MEC, to discuss the reported abuse. Padayachee said a preliminary departmental investigation had uncovered evidence of widespread abuses at the school.
"A thorough investigation would follow to ensure that incidents of this nature never happen again either at Cefups or anywhere else in the province," the MEC said.
Padayachee divulged that officials were probing new reports that a pupil who had charges of criminal assault against Mkhatjwa was beaten again on Monday. The pupil was reported to have been intimidated into dropping the charges by being threatened with expulsion.
Protests against the reported abuses have also have also caused consternation in the provincial legislature. At least three politicians say their children are being traumatised by the incidents.
(c) Copyright The Times of Swaziland.
African Eye News Service, Nelspruit, 25 June 2001
Controversial School Reinstates Teachers, PupilsBy Dumisane Lubisi in Nelspruit
A controversial private school in Mpumalanga, Cefups Academy, announced on Monday that it would reinstate two teachers who were fired for refusing to be flogged in public.
Pupils who were suspended for marching to Mpumalanga's legislature in Nelspruit on May 14 in protest against corporal punishment would also be re-admitted to the school, said school president, Simon Mkhatshwa.
"No pupil was ever expelled from the school, but was only suspended and will be reinstated," said Mkhatshwa.
He was unable to say how many children were suspended for participating in the march. About 150 pupils took part in the march and demanded an end to corporal punishment at the school and the public humiliation of pupils and staff members.
A task team of parents, school management, department of education officials, and representatives of both the South African Democratic Teachers ' Union (Sadtu) and Congress of South African Students (Cosas) was formed on Friday to try resolve the school's problems.
The task team will preside over a fair disciplinary hearing for the teachers and pupils who were dismissed and suspended.
The task team will also address pupils' discipline, adherence to labour relation laws, hostel accommodation, school fees and general school governance.
The school has stopped practicing corporal punishment since the march and Mkhatshwa claimed that this had resulted in general misbehaviour.
He said pupils had been found in possession of dagga, and some male pupils allegedly brought a prostitute to the school hostel and had sex with her. "Now we cannot do anything to punish the children, because they know we cannot touch them," he said.
The march drew the attention of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) who sent commissioners on a fact-finding mission to the school on May 31.
Official in the office of education MEC Craig Padayachee, Vuyile Resha, said the department had referred the matter to the State law advisers for possible criminal charges against Mkhatshwa. - African Eye News Service
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© Colin Farrell 2001
Page updated: October 2001