Congolese pupil hospitalised after classmates severely beat her in xenophobic attack
News / 17 September 2019, 06:47am / Marvin Charles
Cape Town - A Congolese Grade 10 learner at Salt River High School was beaten so severely in a xenophobic attack by classmates that she remains in hospital two weeks later.
Donatien Ngonefi, the father of Donette Ngonefi, said: “My daughter is a class monitor and was told by the teacher to look after the learners. She did nothing wrong. They started mocking her, and saying she’s a foreigner.”
Ngonefi said his daughter had complained to the principal about being bullied, but nothing was done. She also complained about being constantly verbally abused by her classmates.
“Donette was first in Groote Schuur Hospital, then over the weekend she started complaining that she wasn’t feeling well, so we took her to the Karl Bremer Hospital,” he said.
Donette suffered multiple injuries, including abdominal injuries. Her mother, Nsemuila Ngonefi, is heartbroken over her daughter’s ordeal, and has accused the school of showing no compassion towards her daughter.
“If this was a South African child they wouldn’t have done something like this, but because she is Congolese they did this to her,” she said.
“The school has not contacted us at all, and we have not heard from the principal. Every time we call the school we are told she’s sick. They are continuing as if nothing happened,” Nsemuila said.
The family has received support from the Congolese civil society in South Africa, and are planning to take the school and the learners to court.
Chairperson of the society, Isaiah Mombilo, said: “The fact of the matter is that nothing was done to stop this and it is because she is a foreigner. We have been in consultation with lawyers because this is an assault.
“You can’t pretend that nothing happened,” he said, while condemning the attack and calling for proper policies to be put in place to protect foreigners, especially children.
“If we don’t do something quickly, our children will be targeted by this type of violence. We must find a solution,” Mombilo said.
Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the disciplinary hearing has yet to be scheduled, as the exams and the investigation have delayed the process.
“The deputy principal has scheduled meetings with the respective learners and their parents in the interim to establish a platform where civil discussions can be had to plan a way forward collaboratively, as well as obtain evidence.
“A meeting was held on September 4, with five of the learners who were allegedly responsible, and their parents. Statements were given by the learners. On September 5, a meeting with some of the victim’s friends was arranged but none of the learners attended.
“The victim had indicated previously that she was finding the role difficult, but when offered a replacement she indicated that she would like to continue in the role,” Hammond said.