Johannesburg - The absence or indifference of housemasters and teachers, homophobia and toxic masculinity are at the heart of the abuse scandal at Parktown Boys High School.
This is according to a report commissioned by the school’s previous administration, compiled by child protection and development specialist Luke Lamprecht.
The report was not released to the parents of the school, possibly because it mentions a number of sensitive details that will likely form part of the criminal case against the waterpolo coach accused of molesting and raping more than 30 learners at the school.
However, the Saturday Star has seen the report and its findings, and it paints a picture of suspected ongoing abuse that remains an “open secret” at the school. In his report, Lamprecht begins by noting that the waterpolo coach’s alleged abuse of the dozens of learners was only uncovered accidentally, when security footage was viewed to help find missing items at the school.
“I was then briefed by (the then principal) to uncover the ‘Code of Silence’ that had kept this abuse secret and what else lay beneath it,” he writes.
Lamprecht examines the phenomenon of “fagging”, or the power given by institutions to older learners against their younger counterparts.
“In the case of Parktown, this is established and maintained by the Old (matric) and New (Grade 8) Pot system.
“There is a notable lack of adult presence in these systems with the Fag-Master being in charge and dealing with complaints contributing to a Lord of the Flies type system. What needs to be remembered is that the adolescent brain is steeped in sexual development hormones and is likened to giving an unlicensed driver a Ferrari with no brakes. We as adults are the breaks,” he said.
He argues that the parallel system of “hazing/ragging” - defined as a practice of rituals involving harassment, abuse or humiliation of the younger learners - can sometimes border on physical and psychological abuse, and can even build to include nudity and sexual assault.
“This has also been researched in South Africa, with some disturbing results being published,” the report reads.
“Linked to this is secrecy, as the power central to abuse of any kind, and the bond created by ideas like ‘what happens at Parktown stays at Parktown’, which adds an element of isolation, central to the grooming process in sexual abuse, in particular,” it continues.
Lamprecht then brings in the idea of gaslighting - within the context of the “Parktonian way”.
Gaslighting is defined as the manipulation of someone by psychological means into doubting their own sanity.
Lamprecht cites other academic work saying that gaslighting can be experienced by victims of school-bullying when combined with other psychological and physical methods, leading to long-lasting psychological disorders.
“Gaslighting has been linked to childhood sexual abuse as a dynamic of keeping the abuse secret and therefore ongoing,” said Lamprecht.
He then goes on to link such manipulation to the hostel or boarding house system, where the institutions have total control over the lives of those who live within them.
“Some people live in settings where their lives are so controlled that their values and beliefs change drastically. This change is so drastic, in fact, that these people are in effect resocialised. It becomes ‘The Parktown Way’, which exists in some separate secret way from the broader society it should belong to,” he wrote.
“What does this mean for Parktown as an institution? These traditions are steeped in a colonial education system, superimposed on Christian national education (CNE).
“Both having a patriarchal misogynistic structure that was designed to produce good male citizens soldiers for their respective countries to maintain power and the resultant privilege, often through gross human rights violations.
“The cadet system of the CNE system seems to be reflected in the Grade 8 initiation and sets up a mindset of “otherness”, where they are special and part of an elite group, which calls for the group to be protected from outsiders,” the report continues.
Lamprecht then refers to the 2009 scandal the school faced when a teacher and other matric learners were accused of abuse. A group of learners were allegedly beaten and sexually assaulted.
“This (othering) was clearly seen in the 2009 matter and the backlash to the whistleblowers, including isolation and death threats, with the children implicated being left alone to defend their charges.
“Finally, settling financially, while signing a non-disclosure agreement. Money bought silence and immunity from the laws of our country. So begins the “Open Secret” of the sexualised nature of some of the Parktown environment,” he writes.
Where were the adults in this system? Lamprecht accused them of being absent or indifferent, possibly an accessory or collusive to the crimes - particularly the school master in charge.
Lamprecht declined to comment on the report.
The Saturday Star