Bullying victim's mother wants justice
Five months after her teenage son committed suicide following bullying, a Pretoria mother is angry that no action has been taken against the pupils who "contributed" to his death.
Not only is Sheila Hlongwane battling to come to terms with the death of her 16-year-old son, David, but she is demanding answers from the Gauteng department of education for failing to take appropriate action and hold officials accountable.
David, a Grade 10 pupil at Lethabong High school in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria, committed suicide on February 15 - a day after he was allegedly attacked by four bullies during school hours.
"I am angry and cannot understand why people who led to my son's death are still at school while I have lost my only child," said the distraught mother.
Hlongwane reacted with shock yesterday when she learnt of the "slap on the wrist" the principal of the school received and of the suspension of the four bullies - five months after her son took his life.
It was only after The Times published an account of David's suicide and circumstances that the education department suspended the four pupils for a week - only for them to return to school soon thereafter.
Their suspension did not bring an end to bullying at the school, resulting in the department of education appointing a firm of auditors to investigate the matter.
Even after the investigation found that the principal was negligent in reporting the incident to the district office and that the four boys were implicated , the department still failed to act.
It was only after several inquiries from this newspaper that the principal, Jackie Serwadi, was handed a written warning on Wednesday for "indecisive, slow and negligent behaviour in not reporting the incidents to the district office" and the four bullies suspended for the second time.
The spokesman of the education department, Charles Phahlane, said the "investigation is inconclusive in relation to the possible cause for the suicide of the pupil".
"A broader investigation into the school, however, found that four pupils were possibly intimidating others at the school. Disciplinary action is in process against them."
One of the suspended pupils told The Times yesterday that their parents were called to the school on Wednesday afternoon and that the boys were handed letters of suspension.
One of the boys admitted that bullying was still rife at the school.
"Almost every week, parents are invited to school to discuss the behaviour of their children.
"Bullying ranks high on the list of complaints, followed by theft of or from school bags and theft of cellphones."
The Times has learnt that the four boys will be charged with fighting with David with the intention of "doing bodily harm". The outcome of the hearing is expected by July 25. If found guilty, they face expulsion.