'I was afraid she might be bullied,' deputy principal says of sangoma pupil
The deputy principal of a school in Ekurhuleni, east of Johannesburg, has admitted that he advised a grade 10 pupil to cover up her sangoma beads out of fear she would be victimised.
The learner at the Sunward Park High School was allegedly victimised for wearing sangoma beads – prompting the CRL Rights Commission to launch an investigation.
The commission has called the school's staff members to explain why the child was apparently victimised, and a hearing was taking place on Friday.
The provincial education department last month confirmed they were aware of the allegations that the pupil at the Ekurhuleni school had been labelled a "demon" by some teachers and ordered to remove her sangoma beads.
According to the school's code of conduct, pupils are not allowed to wear beads as they are regarded as jewellery.
The grade 10 pupil underwent the ukuthwasa initiation process in 2018. It is only after undergoing this initiation process that a person can become a sangoma.
Deputy principal Enoch Thango said on Friday that he had advised – but had not instructed - the learner to cover her beads. This after other teachers expressed concern over her religion.
"I advised her to cover the beads. I was afraid she might be bullied," he said.
It was also revealed at the hearing on Friday that a Muslim pupil at the same school had to give up his religion because he was victimised by other learners.
Commission chair Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva asked Thango what steps the school had taken to address victimisation at the school.
"We have to review our school code of conduct to be more tolerant of the diverse cultures. We are seeking advice from other people outside the school," he said.
The hearing continues.