The Children’s Court in Polokwane ordered the immediate return of a 10-year-old Grade 4 learner to a local school on Friday and further ordered that he may not be victimised or subjected to maltreatment, abuse, degradation, ill-treatment, violence or harmful behaviour by any adults having control over him while attending the school.
This after the learner’s primary guardian made a shocking discovery of drawings and inscriptions in one of his books which speaks of alleged abuse at school over his naturally wild hairdo. In the book the learner had drawn his educator shouting that he must cut his hair while flames come from her mouth.
At the bottom of the page is a picture of him crying and standing in a pool of tears. The next page features a drawing of himself with a knife in his hand and the inscription: “I wish I could die”.
Even more shocking is the next entry: “I hate going to school because of my hair. They only trouble me.” And on the next page: “If I die they will be happy” followed by “Help me.”
The child’s guardian, who spoke to Polokwane Observer on condition of anonymity, said: “The child has naturally wild hair. We try to keep it neat and he has even gone clean-shaved but he did not like being bald-headed. He comes from a broken family and he has been through hell so I decided to be his caretaker and see to it that he goes to school and to build his self-confidence again.”
The learner was first enrolled at the school last year but issues about his hair first started in January this year, the guardian claimed. “Over the past couple of months I noticed a change in his behaviour and it seemed as if he had fallen back into depression. That was when I decided to search through his school bag last Friday and made the disturbing discovery,” he said.
The guardian took the book to the school last Tuesday but the principal allegedly laughed and downplayed the incident saying that he should not take it seriously nor believe everything the child had written.
“I demanded to take the child home and booked three sessions with a psychiatrist the next day. He returned to school on Thursday only for the guardian to receive a call from the school asking why the child was present because they were under the impression that he had been taken out of the school. “The school indicated that they did not want the child there and that I should pick him up. That was when I approached the court to force the school to allow the child to be educated,” the guardian stated. He also reported the incident to the Department of Education.
Spokesperson for the department, Sam Makondo indicated that the school was not registered at the department and they could therefore not comment on the matter. He indicated that the governance section would however look into the school’s operations.
During a visit to the school the principal indicated that, because of the route the guardian had taken and for not talking to the school amicably, they had to consult with their lawyers first. At the time of going to print she responded that the child was back at school and that he was never maltreated. “The teacher did not downplay the inscriptions, instead, the teacher suggested to the guardian that the child be taken to a psychologist,” she said.
Story & photos: RC Myburgh