Ev­ery­thing is in ex­tremes in Masi­phumelele, says school prin­ci­pal

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - FA­TIMA SCHROEDER

THE prin­ci­pal of a pri­mary school in volatile Masi­phumelele has spo­ken out about the chal­lenges fac­ing pupils af­ter the school’s for­mer deputy prin­ci­pal re­cently lost a Labour Court chal­lenge to his dis­missal for the sex­ual ha­rass­ment of mi­nor pupils.

The in­ci­dents are more than five years old, but it emerged in the judg­ment it was well known sex­ual ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions were rife at Ukhanyo Pri­mary School.

Com­ment­ing this week, prin­ci­pal Michael Ty­hali said there had been fur­ther re­ports of sex­ual ha­rass­ment as well as a re­port of rape in­volv­ing teach­ers at the school.

“In this com­mu­nity ev­ery­thing is in ex­tremes,” he said.

The prob­lem, in Ty­hali’s view, was that many chil­dren in Masi­phumelele were vul­ner­a­ble be­cause of dire fi­nan­cial cir­cum­stances and that “ig­no­rant par­ents” had no in­ter­est in tak­ing care of them.

He said there were many child-headed house­holds in the area and chil­dren were some­times promised money by their abusers.

The school did not turn a blind eye to it, he said.

Chil­dren were ed­u­cated about pos­si­ble dan­gers they could get caught up in, but the re­al­ity was there was lit­tle the school could do once pupils left it’s premises at the end of each day.

The in­ci­dents of sex as­sault re­ferred to by Ty­hali did not take place on the school premises.

In the Cape Town Labour Court judg­ment it emerged that for­mer deputy prin­ci­pal Siza­kele Bo­qwana was dis­missed af­ter two fe­male pupils re­ported he had sex­u­ally ha­rassed them on var­i­ous oc­ca­sions be­tween Jan­uary 2009 and De­cem­ber 2010.

At the time, he was em­ployed as an act­ing de­part­men­tal head at the school.

Bo­qwana de­nied he had sex­u­ally as­saulted the pupils and claimed the al­le­ga­tions had been fab­ri­cated as part of a con­spir­acy against him af­ter he was pro­moted.

How­ever, the ar­bi­tra­tor found the girls to be “ex­tremely” cred­i­ble wit­nesses, say­ing they “stood their ground de­spite vig­or­ous and ar­du­ous cross-ex­am­i­na­tion”.

She also found there was no rea­son for the girls to fab­ri­cate the ev­i­dence and said Bo­qwana had not been able to sub­stan­ti­ate his con­spir­acy the­ory.

“If there was un­hap­pi­ness about him be­ing ap­pointed to ei­ther of the posts he was ap­pointed to, there is a far less ar­du­ous and trau­matic process that can be used rather than in­vent­ing a sex­ual ha­rass­ment process and get­ting so many learn­ers to fab­ri­cate ev­i­dence, and to fab­ri­cate tears and emo­tions in two long and trau­matic pro­cesses,” she said.

His dis­missal was found to be sub­stan­tively and pro­ce­du­rally fair.

How­ever, Bo­qwana took the mat­ter to the Labour Court, where he sub­mit­ted that the ar­bi­tra­tor mis­con­strued the ev­i­dence, failed to con­duct the pro­ceed­ings in a fair and con­sis­tent man­ner and failed to ap­ply her mind to the dis­pute.

But Judge Hilary RabkinNaicker dis­agreed.

She found the ar­bi­tra­tor acted as a rea­son­able de­ci­sion- maker in the way she weighed up the prob­a­bil­i­ties and drew in­fer­ences from the ev­i­dence.

“There is no ba­sis to find the ar­bi­tra­tor came to an un­rea­son­able re­sult based on her as­sess­ment of the ev­i­dence, more es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing that the ‘ con­spir­acy’ the­ory ad­vanced on be­half of (Bo­qwana) was sub­mit­ted to in­clude even the mother of the first com­plainant who, the ev­i­dence showed, was new to the area.

“Fur­ther that ( Bo­qwana) did not ever re­port the al­leged SMS mes­sages he was re­ceiv­ing to his prin­ci­pal, al­though as the ar­bi­tra­tor noted, it was well known that sex­ual ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions were rife at the school.”

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