THE Gauteng Department of Education (DoE) is investigating claims of bullying of junior boys at one of the city’s top public schools.

A mother has removed her 13-year-old Grade 8 son from Pretoria Boys' High School, claiming he was hit with a cricket bat by matrics.

She said she wanted the school, in particular hostel masters, to take responsibility for her son’s ordeal.

The boy has since been enrolled in another school in Fourways, Joburg north.

The department said it had already dispatched officials to investigate the incidents reported by some parents and their children.

Spokesperson Steve Mabona said: “We will host an anti-bullying workshop at the school.

"This will be in collaboration with the Matthew Goniwe School of Leadership, and in addition to our investigations.”

The mother, who cannot be named to protect the child, said her son was traumatised by the school’s culture of initiation, a practice tolerated to make men of the young boys.

“Grade 8 boys suffered beatings at the hands of matric boys allegedly orchestrated by senior prefects, often with cricket bats and belts,” she claimed. “My son was hit five times on his legs and backside by two other Grade 8s - and he was instructed to hit the other two boys.”

She said she cried when she saw her son’s bruises. Her son told her new boys had been commanded to beat one another, and “if the other boy hit you harder than you hit him, you would get hit again”.

“What they did to my son was unacceptable,” she said, adding the boys had to deal with the emotional turmoil of being hit and then hitting one of their newly made friends.

She said for a young adolescent, the trauma of being bullied was compounded by overwhelming fear, which made them reluctant to speak of what had happened.

“He was so excited in the beginning," the mother said.

"But then it seemed to progress to something unacceptable,” she added.

She decided to remove her son after he confessed to her when he was due to return to the hostel, after a weekend outing, that he was being bullied and showed her his bruises.

Another pupil has been removed from the same hostel. The other reported incident involved another boy, who has claimed he was told to throw a blanket over a fellow pupil in the hostel after lights out because he “wasn’t pulling his weight”.

Another mother whose son is in the same boarding house confirmed that incident. She said fortunately her son did not suffer the same fate, but she was worried it could happen to him. “We have to stop it in its tracks before it can happen to future generations,” she said.

Chairperson of the school's governing body, Wayne Forrester, said they were aware of what happened and had engaged the department about the matter.

Over and above proactive anti-bullying steps consistently taken by the school, the school is also in consultation with the Gauteng DoE, looking at bullying and how best we can try to prevent similar incidents in future, he said. “We have also engaged all the boys involved as well as their parents. All the boys involved have been offered counselling.”

Forrester said disciplinary steps had been taken against the transgressors and the matter dealt with firmly and fairly.

They had also engaged with the mother and investigated her allegations thoroughly.

“The school has a very strict no-bullying policy and culture, which is enforceable through its code of conduct and the boarding code of expected behaviour,” he said.

Forrester said the school regards any form of bullying as unacceptable. “Bullying is wrong for both the victim as well as the perpetrators; it is not tolerated at the school,” he said.

Several measures were in place to confront bullying, he added.

In addition, the school had also arranged for anti-bullying discussions to take place involving various groups at the school at different times during the year.