Durban -While fellow pupils wrote their end-of-year exams, a Grade 10 pupil sat at home thinking about his safety following death threats that forced him to drop out of school after he opened a case of assault against his school principal.
The pupil, a member of the Nazareth Baptist Church, known as the Shembe Church, claimed he was harassed after refusing to cut his hair.
Nduduzo Gamede, of Thwazi High School in Mkhuze, in northern KwaZulu-Natal, said he and other pupils who were Shembe church members were targeted and victimised.
He was allegedly assaulted by the principal in February for keeping his hair long. Shembe members believe that cutting their hair is a sin.
Gamede is one of six pupils who opened cases of assault and harassment against their teachers. The cases will soon be heard in the Obonjeni Equality Court.
The matter against the principal was recently reported to the South African Council of Educators (Sace) for an investigation.
Willington Myeni, the chairperson of the Nazeria Judicial Council, said the church was worried about the increase in such cases.
“This is a growing trend,” he said.
Gamede said he still had flashbacks to being assaulted in the principal’s office. He said Shembe pupils were victimised and told that they followed a “stupid” religion.
He said that on the day of the incident, he was called to principal Bhekokwakhe Xaba’s office to explain why he was still using a white shirt, long after the school uniform had changed to a cream-white shirt.
Gamede said the issue of his hair also came up, and his explanations about his religion and that his mother could not afford the new shirt were not accepted.
“I was beaten up with a plastic pipe on my buttocks until I could not cry any more. The more I tried to rub my buttocks with my hands, the more of a beating I got,” he said.
He added that he had opened a case of assault against the school principal, and obtained a doctor’s report, but that did not stop the harassment.
“I heard rumours that the principal threatened to sort me out for trying to destroy his career. I received death threats and because I feared for my life, I decided to drop out of school. I am sad that I have lost a school year that will never be recovered,” he said.
Lieutenant Thulani Zwane confirmed that a case of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm had been opened.
He said Xaba had been arrested and had appeared in the Ubombo Magistrate’s Court on numerous occasions.
Sace spokesperson Themba Ndhlovu said Umkhanyakude was a problem area.
“We are going to send officials to investigate incidents of misconduct against many teachers in the area, especially those involved in corporal punishment, discrimination of pupils who are members of the Nazareth Baptist Church, and sexual harassment allegations,” said Ndhlovu.