Everything is in extremes in Masiphumelele, says school principal
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.”