Alleged bully sentenced to three months’ jail for ditching court
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Durban - A ZULULAND pupil accused of bullying was recently sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for failing to appear in court or providing valid reasons for her absence.
The Department of Education and education stakeholders welcomed the court’s decision.
Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu said he was pleased with the manner in which law enforcement agencies dealt with the matter.
“We have had a number of cases involving pupils who are bullying others in schools. Despite our spirited campaigns to plead with our pupils to desist from this behaviour, it appears that some continue to disregard our call. We hope that this sentence and the likelihood of another one for assault will serve as a deterrent and a harsh lesson to all other wayward pupils. We therefore welcome the sentence,” Mshengu said.
The department added that it’s tribunal had recommended that the pupil be expelled.
The 16-year-old pupil from a high school in northern KwaZulu-Natal had allegedly bullied a fellow female pupil. The assault was seen in a video that went viral on social media in September 2020.
The pupil is seen kicking, slapping and punching the victim. She was also seen ripping off the other pupil’s underwear while other pupils watched, even though one tried to intervene.
The perpetrator and the pupil who filmed the assault were suspended.
The victim’s family opened a case, which led to the perpetrator being charged with assault with the intention to cause grievous bodily harm.
According to the department, the perpetrator was released on a warning into her mother’s care due to her age.
On February 23, she failed to appear in court and her parents did not know where she was, leading the court to postpone the matter to March 9 for an inquiry into establish why she failed to appear.
“At the inquiry she failed to provide reasons and the magistrate found her guilty for failing to appear in court. She was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for failure to appear before court,” said the department.
“The Grade 11 pupil, who has started serving the three-month jail term, is expected to appear before the court once again on March 31, where the matter of assault with intention to cause grievous bodily harm will be heard.”
National Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) provincial chief executive Thirona Moodley said they concurred with Mshengu that it took tough action by the criminal justice system to set precedents and a zero tolerance policy towards any form of violence in schools.
“Schools must always be a safe haven for all teachers and pupils, and violence must be completely eradicated. The court must be applauded for its tough stance against the pupil accused of assaulting a fellow pupil. The video of the gruesome assault, which was widely circulated, was disturbing and shocking. We cannot allow these perpetrators to masquerade in our schools. These are also the pupils who assault their teachers,” said Moodley.
“The court ruling must be made known in all schools as for far too long pupils have escaped the long arm of the law.”
National Teachers Union general secretary Cynthia Barnes said they were pleased with the sentence because it was disrespectful for the pupil to miss her court appearance.
“Due to the fact that she failed to appear in court, that’s a good sentence, so other pupils will learn from her. Despite the fact that she is still a minor, she has to understand that what she has done is not something to be proud of and rejoice that she has traumatised a pupil in such a manner,” said Barnes.
The South African Principals' Association’s provincial president Linda Shezi said schools were plagued with bullies who did not respect themselves and others, “let alone the rule of law”.
Shezi said schools needed to have updated codes of conduct that were understood by all, and those found guilty of gross misconduct must be dealt with swiftly and effectively.
Congress of South African Students president Thabang Mokoena, however, felt that expelling the pupil would be a crime and an injustice, which would also infringe on the pupil’s right to education.