File image: David Deardorff/AP

Johannesburg - A Grade 10 pupil faces a bleak future after he was expelled from his school for allegedly selling drugs in the institution’s yard.
Tshegofatso Maboe, a 16-year-old at Vaalpark Articon High School, a former Model C school in Vanderbijlpark, remains stuck at home while his schoolmates write exams following his expulsion on August 13. He was found “peddling illegal narcotic substances” during school hours on March 9, according to the school principal, Wouter Wessels.

Tshegofatso’s case is the latest in a string of incidents of pupils being expelled or sanctioned for similar offences in the past three months. In the same month that he was expelled, two boys were suspended from Norkem Park High School, following a spate of violence at the school.

In KwaZulu-Natal, six pupils from Palmview Secondary School in Durban are facing expulsion after being caught on a video assaulting a boy from a neighbouring school. Nine Grade 12 pupils from Makaula senior secondary school in the Eastern Cape were recently allowed back into the school after they were expelled for failing to attend spring school.

Tshegofatso believes his dismissal was unfair, saying the principal and his deputy found a box of cigarettes in his pocket, not drugs.

“They searched around my desk. Afterwards, they told me to follow them to the office. I was shocked because they only came to me. They didn’t search other learners."

“Along the way they told me that they didn’t want to see my hands going in my pockets,” he said, adding that once in the office, he was told that everything was being recorded.

“They started to search my pockets and the school bag. They found a box of cigarettes in the blazer and put them on the table. At that time I was thinking how my mom would be disappointed and I ate them,” he said. It was at that point that he was barred from the school. 

He said pleas by his mother to allow him to attend school were ignored but that they agreed after the parent called the local department of education to intervene.

“They told me not to talk to any learner, not to go to toilet and that I would sit in the hall, far from other learners. That was after the first term around May. They even told me not to submit my projects and my class books. The only thing I was allowed was to write exams in the first and the second term without attending classes.”

Tshegofatso’s mother, Martha Maboe, was adamant that her son was a disciplined child who took his schooling seriously.

“What I know is that he is an A student,” she said, adding that her son had previously won awards. She said her son was being denied his right to education. She said she had tried to appeal the suspension without success. She then approached the office of the MEC for intervention. A pupil who attends the same school said she was not surprised by Tshegofatso’s dismissal, alleging that racism was rife at the school.

“Every time we (black students) come with complaints they are not attended to. We are badly treated,” said the pupil, who asked not to be identified.

When approached for comment, Wessels said: “We followed the right procedures to expel him at the school.”

He declined to comment further, referring enquiries to the Free State Department of Education.

Provincial education spokesperson Howard Ndaba said the expulsion was fair. Ndaba said all the processes were followed in terms of section 9(1)(c) of the Schools Act 84 of 1996.

“In terms of the provisional regulations regarding the discipline of learners at public schools, possession, use and transmission of narcotic or unauthorised drugs is a very serious misconduct which may lead to expulsion from the school.

“No physical evidence was sent to the department, but (we) received a photo taken by the school of a dagga joint (zol). In terms of the procedure followed, we could not find any irregularity (in the expulsion),” said Ndaba.

He added that the department’s legal team was currently working on Tshegofatso’s appeal.

The Sunday Independent