Par­ents lock horns with school over bul­ly­ing

The Sunday Independent - - News - NABEELAH SHAIKH nabeelah.shaikh@inl.co.za

AL­LE­GA­TIONS of bul­ly­ing, in­clud­ing boys be­ing forced to mas­tur­bate on cam­era, have sur­faced at We­ston Agri­cul­tural Col­lege, a top Mid­lands, KwaZulu-Natal school.

The school mod­els it­self around “sound Chris­tian prin­ci­ples, good dis­ci­pline, a hard-work­ing ethos and prac­ti­cal, hands-on farm­ing skills”.

But in the wake of a se­ries of bul­ly­ing in­ci­dents, par­ents of two pupils re­cently re­moved their boys from the school.

One of the boys was also di­ag­nosed as sui­ci­dal by a psy­chi­a­trist who had treated the 15-year-old for trauma af­ter he had been re­peat­edly as­saulted by an el­der school bully.

“I was left with no op­tion but to re­move him from the school,” said the Queens­burgh mother of the boy, who is now com­plet­ing his Grade 8 at an­other school.

“My son told a psy­chi­a­trist that he felt like hang­ing him­self. This was the last straw for us as par­ents,” she said.

While We­ston prin­ci­pal Dou­glas Robert­son said he was not au­tho­rised to speak to the me­dia as We­ston was a gov­ern­ment school, the KZN De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion con­firmed that re­cent bully al­le­ga­tions were be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.

A mother from Amanz­im­toti said she had also re­moved her son from We­ston last week af­ter he, too, had been bul­lied by older pupils, and pinned against the wall and as­saulted.

Fol­low­ing the bul­ly­ing in­ci­dents, both moth­ers ap­proached the school prin­ci­pal, ask­ing him to in­ter­vene.

“We got to­gether and called a meet­ing with the prin­ci­pal to let him know what had been go­ing on.

“He said he would in­ves­ti­gate and re­solve the sit­u­a­tion, but no feed­back was given to us. Af­ter spend­ing an arm and a leg to send my son to the school, I took the de­ci­sion to re­move him last week,” said the Amanz­im­toti mother.

The moth­ers said that in vis­it­ing the school and talk­ing to other par­ents, they had ob­tained first­hand ac­counts from their sons and other pupils about some of the things that had been go­ing on.

“We learnt that a group of boys had been sus­pended be­cause they forced a pupil to mas­tur­bate in front of them, then recorded a video of the in­ci­dent and threat­ened to post it on so­cial me­dia,” said the Amanz­im­toti mother.

“One pupil was hit on the head with the buckle of a belt and had to re­ceive med­i­cal treat­ment,” she said.

The Queens­burgh mother said the school was known to have a good rep­u­ta­tion and was one of the few KZN schools that fo­cused on farm­ing.

She said a rel­a­tive who went to We­ston had rec­om­mended her son be en­rolled at the school be­cause he was keen on farm­ing.

“He had his hopes pinned on com­plet­ing his ma­tric at We­ston,” she said.

In con­firm­ing that the KZN De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion was in­ves­ti­gat­ing the bul­ly­ing al­le­ga­tions, spokesper­son Muzi Mahlambi said the de­part­ment had also looked into the con­duct of pupils at the school last year af­ter a group of pupils al­legedly killed goats and de­stroyed a school gar­den.

“The De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion in­ter­vened and the pupils were sus­pended,” said Mahlambi.

He said the de­part­ment’s stance on bul­ly­ing was clear. “Bul­ly­ing is not al­lowed at our schools but un­for­tu­nately it’s some­thing that the de­part­ment does not have full con­trol of.

“The bul­lies and the vic­tims of bul­ly­ing come from fam­i­lies. Those fam­i­lies, and par­ents, should take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the ac­tions of their chil­dren. Some chil­dren are in­no­cent and well-be­haved at home but be­have like mon­sters when they get to school,” said Mahlambi.

He said some­times, when the de­part­ment wanted to take ac­tion against bul­lies, par­ents were quick to de­fend their chil­dren.

“There needs to be mu­tual un­der­stand­ing that we can only deal with the prob­lem if we ad­mit that a child is wrong and look at ways to deal with it to­gether,” added Mahlambi.

We­ston Agri­cul­tural Col­lege, a top school in the KwaZulu-Natal Mid­lands, has come un­der scru­tiny fol­low­ing a se­ries of bul­ly­ing in­ci­dents. One of the vic­tims was di­ag­nosed as sui­ci­dal af­ter his ordeal.

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