Bullies force girl, 9, to swallow sewing needle
Object removed from pupil's stomach in emergency operation
A nine-year-old girl had an emergency operation to remove a sewing needle from her stomach after two classmates allegedly forced her to swallow it.
The parents of the girl, from Bloemfontein, said their daughter's classmates, aged 12 and 11, threatened to hit her if she did not swallow the needle.
Their daughter and son, who are twins, are among 17 pupils in a class that caters for pupils with special educational needs at the Dr CF Visser Primary School.
The incident, on June 21, a day before schools closed for the winter holiday, comes barely two weeks after a 14-year-old boy was gang-raped, allegedly by fellow pupils, at another Free State school.
And in an incident at the George Campbell School of Technology in Durban on May 31, a video of a schoolgirl attacking another girl went viral on social media.
The pupils at Dr CF Visser, who were sitting in a circle in class, were using needles for "tolletjiebrei", or French knitting, to make a mat out of wool.
The girls' parents told the Sunday Times this week that the class teacher called them around 10.30am to say they needed to take their daughter for X-rays.
LODGED IN THE STOMACH
"All the school said was that she swallowed a needle. They didn't explain anything else," said the girl's father.
An X-ray at the Bloemfontein's National Hospital confirmed that a needle was lodged in the girl's stomach. "They told us if the needle was not removed fast, she will die."
A surgeon at Universitas Hospital removed the needle with an endoscope - a tube inserted into the stomach through the mouth.
The girl's mother said her daughter told her: "Mom, [one of the two girls] told me if I didn't swallow the needle, they're going to hit me on my face."
TEACHER HAD BEEN TOLD
The mother insisted that both girls had threatened her daughter, and that the girl's brother, who sits opposite her in class, had corroborated her story.
"Until today we don't know how she swallowed it," said the mother. "She was so afraid that she did it before realising that this could be very dangerous. She's traumatised and scared."
The mother had previously informed the teacher at a parents' evening that the girls were bullying her daughter.
"At break time, if she doesn't give bread or something to them, they punish her. They also break her pencils in class because they are nasty kids. I even wrote a note in my daughter's book to say: 'Please, these kids keep on hitting her. They are breaking her pencil, please do something about it.'
"If they did something that time, none of this would have happened. We are also scared to take her back to school because we don't know what's going to happen next. They [the two girls] should be removed from the school."
She said the class teacher visited her daughter in hospital. "She told me luckily it was not a sharp needle. That's her story to me. But a needle is a needle."
The school's acting principal, Zak Steyn, said the education department had advised him not to comment on the matter.
Roux Smith, chairman of the school's governing body, said he was shocked by the incident, but as far as he knew there had been no complaints of bullying against the two girls.
"The child says they forced her to swallow a needle but we haven't heard the story from the other side. You can't just say a child is a bully if you can't prove it. We are going to investigate the matter as soon as the school opens."
Smith, who said the school had a zero-tolerance approach towards bullies, said the victim and the two girls would be asked to write reports about what happened.
"If it's found they bullied the child, the whole governing body will decide what action to take, but the action will be serious. If the school is found to be negligent, the school will be prepared to pay the medical bills."
Free State education department spokesman Howard Ndaba said "a proper internal investigation report" was expected after schools reopen.
"The department views bullying in a very serious light as schools are meant to be a safe place where learners are taught," he said.