Sans Souci Girls High pupils embark on a protest. File Picture: Mantsadi Sepheka
Sans Souci Girls High pupils embark on a protest. File Picture: Mantsadi Sepheka

Sans Souci Girls' High School dumps casual clothing days after harassment complaint

By Odwa Mkentane Time of article published Mar 1, 2021

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Cape Town - In the latest development involving allegations of sexual harassment, body shaming and a dictatorial system at Sans Souci Girls' High School, the school has announced that it will be doing away with casual clothing days.

Principal Ruschda O'Shea also appealed to parents to check the girls' uniforms, especially the length of their dresses.

The development comes after a father of a pupil at the school slammed the institution last week over its handling of allegations of sexual advances made by a male teacher toward his daughter.

Pupils last week also handed over a list of grievances to management, calling on the school to act against alleged sexual harassment, body shaming and a dictatorial system, among other issues.

The parent told the Cape Times he had approached O'Shea, who had taken a “glaring, unco-operative posture”.

He said despite receiving correspondence from the school last year stating that it had conducted an inquiry into the matter and that it had decided to conduct a further inquiry on the matter in the presence of him and his daughter, he did not hear anything further.

In a letter to parents on Friday, O'Shea said she wanted to reassure them that despite “the media sensationalising the story, no girl at Sans Souci was sexually harassed or body shamed”.

“Allegations were made and through investigations they were found not to be true. The SGB established a committee last year that looked into the matter and found no evidence of sexual harassment against any staff member.

“Nonetheless, several meetings were held with male staff to impress upon them the importance of not making girls feel uncomfortable.”

She said many of the other grievances raised, including the closure of the library, was not their decision but government Covid-19 rules.

“Allegations against teaching staff will be addressed on a one-to-one basis via the proper channels.

“After discussions with staff, SGB Exco and WCED head office, it was decided that all girls will wear their Sans Souci uniform every day they attend school. No more casual clothing days.

“We will inform learners of paid civvies days as fundraising for their various societies clubs, etc. I again appeal to parents to check the girls' uniforms – especially the length of dresses,” O'Shea said.

The father yesterday said: “The principal, together with the SGB, are attempting to brainwash parents by misrepresenting the facts. If indeed a committee was formed to investigate sexual harassment allegations by not one but several pupils, then they need to be transparent.

“How many pupils complained about unwanted sexual advances from male teachers? What are the names and surnames of the SGB members that formed part of this meeting? The terms of references and when they commenced and concluded the investigation? Were the complainants interviewed?”

He asked for the committee's report on their investigation to be shared.

“Where is the transparency in all of these supposedly undertaken processes?” he said.

Attempt to reach O'Shea on her cellphone were unsuccessful.

A pupil at the school who asked to remain anonymous said she was disappointed in the school's response.

“Why have more than three pupils come out and reported the allegations but the school finds no evidence? The school will investigate nothing and no teacher will be found guilty on any of the allegations.

“This means that more children will be victims at the school and will be afraid to report it because nothing will be done,” she said.

The WCED last week said actions by the Grade 12s came after a pupil was approached for allegedly not wearing appropriate attire to school, but they said she was not bodyshamed.

“The school had written to parents the week before asking that pupils wear appropriate clothing on days when ‘civvies’ are allowed – no short skirts, crop tops, etc,” the department said.

WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said no evidence was found to substantiate the claims.

“All allegations regarding sexual harassment were addressed by the school. No evidence was found to substantiate the claims. No learners allegedly came forward for the Grade 12 meeting arranged by the principal to hear their grievances on Thursday afternoon.

“The school had a meeting with Grade 12 parents on Thursday night. While parents were able to voice their concerns regarding the media report, the parents allegedly chose to rather focus their attention and questions on the academic programme that lies ahead.

“There has been no further comment made or disruption. Teaching and learning have continued,” said Hammond.

EFF spokesperson Wandile Kasibe said the party rejected the WCED’s response and demanded that the school present the minutes of the meeting they held with parents.

“We would also like to know whether the parents of the learner who was body-shamed by a teacher attended the meeting. We demand an independent investigation into this matter. It cannot be that our learners are subjected to this kind of violence and trauma. Our learners are terrified and fear for their lives, hence we demand that this matter be investigated independently.

“We call on the MEC to appoint an independent investigator to investigate this matter,” said Kasibe.

Cape Times

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