Orlando - Bongani Ntombela is afraid to attend staff meetings at Orlando High School in Soweto, where he teaches isiZulu, after the school principal allegedly beat him on the head with a heavy stapler that left him bleeding. The principal, Thozama Mwartjana, also allegedly belittled him by calling him names such as “virus” and a “failure”.

Ntombela said he was assaulted by Mwartjana after she accused him of “sabotaging the system” when the school failed to acquire new isiZulu Grade 9 textbooks. She also blamed him for giving wrong information to the Department of Education.

The alleged assault is the latest in a string of violent incidents at schools. This week a school chef at the Hlakaniphani Primary School fought with the teachers and then opened a case against the principal after she was accused of stealing stuff from the school.

According to a survey by the Human Sciences Research Council and the Department of Basic Education, 20% of South Africa’s teachers believe that schools are violent places and suspect that their students and colleagues are armed.

Ntombela said he reported the assault to education authorities and claims they did nothing. When he went to the Orlando police station to lay a complaint, the police sent him back to resolve the matter with Mwartjana. Tshidiso Ledimo of the Gauteng South African Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) said he was not aware of the incident and would “have to check with branches”. But Ntombela claims that union members were present when he went to the police station.

“I even took the matter to the Department of Education because truly I don’t know why the principal is after me, but they never got back to me”.

According to Ntombela, the fight broke out after Mwartjana brought a form from the district which he refused to fill as he didn’t understand its contents. “That’s when she decided to beat me up with that heavy stapler. She was also calling me names like virus, a failure that I am emotional and in need of a psychologist.”

However, Gauteng education spokesperson Steve Mabona denied the assault claims, saying that investigations by the district office found no evidence of the assault. He said he was also aware that the matter was reported to the police but was resolved “amicably”.

However, Ntombela poured scorn on Mabona’s assertions, saying that the official sent to the school only spoke about matric results and congratulated them for the good performance.

Gender activist Mbuyiselo Botha said Ntombela’s case had nothing to do with gender issues; it was a case of the police failing to support an assault victim. 

“The complaint should be respected in full. This has nothing to do with with gender. Our justice system failed him and it’s disgusting. He should go back and seek help from the station commissioner or go to the provincial office,” Botha said.

Ntombela has to be at school every day but doesn't attend meetings as he is scared of coming across Mwartjana.

Sunday Independent