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Concern resurfaces about 'code of silence' at Parktown Boys' High

26 January 2020 - 11:09 By Kgaugelo Masweneng
A grade 8 pupil from Parktown Boys' High School died during a school orientation camp.
A grade 8 pupil from Parktown Boys' High School died during a school orientation camp.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo

Concern has been raised again about the "code of silence" at Parktown Boys' High.

Erica Roos, whose son ended up in hospital in 2017 after an alleged incident at the school, was among parents of former pupils who, along with the media, were asked to leave a parents' meeting with provincial education MEC Panyaza on Friday evening.

Gauteng's education department said earlier on Friday that Parktown Boys' High principal Malcolm Williams had been suspended after the recent death of a grade 8 pupil, Enock Mpianzi, during a school orientation camp. Lesufi later met parents to give them feedback on the issue and hear their concerns.

“Everybody has let me down. Lesufi has let me down, the school has let me down,” said Roos.

She recalled how on June 15 2017, at around pick up time, her son who was a grade 8 pupil asked to be taken to hospital.

“I took him to the hospital and he lost consciousness. It turns out he was beaten with a stick on his head. He was in hospital for four days. This caused him to have very bad concussion. He also couldn’t write his exams," she said.

“My son has a bleeding disorder, it’s genetic, but this exacerbated it.'

She said an investigation was carried out but alleged that "the department is not telling me anything”.

Education department spokesperson Steve Mabona was unable to answer questions about the case on Friday evening.

“The code of silence at the school should be abolished and the school governing body  should step down,” charged Roos.

Peter Harris of Harris Nupen Molebatsi Attorneys released a report, commissioned by the Gauteng department of education in 2018, which details abuse during initiation activities at the school.

The investigation found that there was a “culture of silence” at the school – a situation that discouraged pupils from reporting incidents.

The report also found that pressure was put on pupils to behave in a particular way.

"The culture of initiation still exists and more needs to be done to ensure that it is completely eradicated‚" the report found.

Ian Dally, another former parent, also suggested the school governing body step down.

“It's not about titles but the well-being of the learners. There’s no harm in them stepping down,” he said.

He said his child was still proud of the school despite everything that had happened.

“I just want people to be aware ... it’s not a thing of putting down the school, in fact we want it to improve."

Lesufi provided an update on some of the issues that were discussed during the closed parents' meeting.

Parents requested that learning continue at the school. The issue of the code of silence as well as the role of the school governing body and various stakeholders were also discussed.

“At this present moment the principal is not a suspect and I don’t want to pass a judgment that the principal has been found guilty," said Lesufi.

“It’s not only about dismissing people, even if it means removing you from the school, we will do that. People must be arrested if they [police] feel that way,” Lesufi said.

Lesufi acknowledged that some parents had been excluded from the meeting.

“We have a history with those parents. We have met them on a one-on-one level, at parents' meetings before and the courts,” said Lesufi.