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Boy, 7, 'battered by Grade 1 classmates'

05 September 2012 - 02:09 By CANAAN MDLETSHEand NASHIRA DAVIDS

They are only Grade 1 pupils but they allegedly beat a seven-year-old schoolmate so badly that he might never walk properly again.

The six pupils - aged between six and eight - are said to have repeatedly kicked and punched the boy in full view of their classmates.

The boy, who attends Qedizaba Primary School, in Newcastle, northern KwaZulu-Natal, was on Friday asked to report noisemakers when the teacher left the classroom.

He did as he had been asked when the teacher returned. The teacher reprimanded the culprits , who turned on the boy.

"They punched and kicked him on the lower part of the abdomen,'' his grandmother said yesterday.

'The first doctor who examined him on Friday said his liver might have been injured.

"Another doctor, who checked him on Monday, said his kidneys might have been damaged," said the woman, who cannot be identified to protect the identity of the victim.

"I'm in so much pain. I cry day and night after what happened to him. My grandson might never be able to walk properly again because of the assault," she said.

The school's principal, who refused to be named, said: "I'm still attending to the incident and trying to get all the information so I can give a report to the department [of education]."

The provincial department of education did not respond to questions about the alleged assault yesterday.

Lezanne Leoschut, research director at the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention, said a study by the centre had found that much of the violence experienced by youngsters was perpetrated by classmates or schoolmates.

"Researchers, policymakers and practitioners alike are increasingly acknowledging that youth violence is of grave concern," said Leoschut.

In 2010, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation researched why South Africans are prone to violence.

It found that children who "become persistent offenders" were often affected by adverse family and school experiences.

"The childhood experiences of many children and young people in South Africa involve multiple levels of adversity, including poverty, unstable living arrangements, absent, indifferent or violent fathers, and alcohol- or other substance-abusive parents or relatives."

The Newcastle grandmother said that her grandson had been assaulted previously. After one assault he refused to go to school.

"But I forced him, saying I could not let him stay away because it's his future. But now that future I was telling him about could well have been permanently destroyed. It's very painful and I'm frustrated," she said.

The boy was admitted to Madadeni Hospital on Friday.

Though hospital officials would not comment on hi s injuries, his grandmother said the boy was severely beaten and she had been told that he might have spinal injuries .

"Today they are taking him for an ultra-sound scan to check how badly he was beaten. I pray that his spine is fine and that he is able to walk properly again," she said yesterday.

Despite being advised to report the attack to the police, the grandmother did not do so. She said teachers had persuaded her to try to resolve things "amicably" with the parents of the attackers.

But she believes that the assailants should be punished.

The Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention is to host an International Youth Violence Prevention Conference in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, in November.

Leoschut said that as well as identifying child violence prevention strategies, the conference would be a forum for the sharing of research among regional and international researchers and policy-makers.