Parents lock horns with school over bullying
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.