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Education Dept investigates alleged learner abuse at Sydenham Primary School

By Afikile Lugunya - Feb 21, 2019
Education Dept investigates alleged learner abuse at Sydenham Primary School

The Eastern Cape Department of Education is investigating an incident of alleged learner abuse that happened Sydenham Primary School, in Sydenham, Port Elizabeth.

This follows after a woman posted on her Facebook profile alleging that a 10-year-old had been locked away in the school's sick bay for hours by a teacher identified as Mrs Smith.

According to the post, the 10-year-old, who is a Grade 5 pupil at Sydenham Primary School, was locked in the sick bay allegedly for talking in the corridors.

"Mrs Smith claims that she heard [learner] speaking in the corridor and decided to lock her in the sick bay (mind you that [learner] wasn't sick) and had forgotten about her," the woman said.

"[Learner] claims that it wasn't she who was speaking in the corridor. What she remembers is walking out of an IT class to her next period.

"When she was DRAGGED FORCEFULLY by Mrs Smith and locked her up in the sick bay. Please note that Mrs Smith is a teacher at Sydenham Primary but does not teach [learner].

"[Learner] said she cried in bay from morning, until she was released past 1PM."

The woman, who wrote the post, said that the 10-year-old was her cousin and that the same thing happened to her back in 2007, while she studied at the school.

"The locking up of pupils has been a long standing form of punishment at Sydenham Primary," she said.

She also wrote that the 10-year-old "is claustrophobic and is a sinus patient".

"Her sinuses are so severe that she sometimes bleeds out of her nose when she's in hot and confined spaces," she described.

She said that the 10-year-old was only rescued by another teacher, who heard her crying from the sick bay.

"He then took [learner] to the office, where the parents were called in because she was experiencing an anxiety attack," she wrote.

"We had to drop everything and rush to the school. When we got to the school, [learner's] face was swollen and the male teacher claims that her eyes were too, when he found her. He claims that the child was struggling to breath too, when he decided to call the parents in."

She said that when they asked to see Mrs Smith, for her to explain, the teacher said that he had found the learner locked up in the sickbay and "that he is only a teacher and cannot intervene further".

"He would have to call in the grade head or the principal. Unfortunately the principal was not there to attend to the matter, we were told," she said.

"I do not know what kind of a devil worshiping ritual this is. As the family we are beyond angry. And the question we keep asking ourselves, is what if no one had come to her rescue and heard her crying? And also, what is the protocol that should be observed as a form of punishment?

"Also, why is speaking in the corridor (during class change) a punishable offense, to the extent that you are locked up and forgotten like a slave?"

Department of Education not satisfied by school's version

After being made aware of this incident, the Eastern Cape Department of Education said that it sent an inspector on Wednesday to investigate.

According to the ECDoE spokesperson, Malibongwe Mtima, the department was not satisfied with a report that was compiled by the School Principal, Nomsa Mzinzi, and decided to do their own investigation.

Mtima said that he was still waiting for the results of that investigation.

Brief report compiled by Sydenham Primary School

Apparently, the report that was compiled by Mzinzi indicated that the Grade 5 pupil had attended all her classes on Monday - the day the alleged incident happened.

It said that the Principal was at the Department offices, between 1pm and 3h30pm, to submit growth post documents.

She only learnt about solitary confinement on Tuesday night. 

"Today [Wednesday] at 8am, I went straight to the Deputy Principal Mr Le Roux for clarity," she wrote.

She said that she was told the learner was at assembly on Monday morning between 8am and 8h45; Had IT lessons between periods 6&7; IT teacher was at the department for SASAMS workshop and returned around period 8 & 9; he was substituted by different educators in his absence - these times are around 11:26 & 12:20.

"After [learner's] class left, the supervising educator Ms Smith locked the classroom unaware a child was still inside as her class went upstairs for CA lesson.

"That s as far as our deputies account went."

In other words, the woman's story about the incident is false.

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