The entrance to Parktown Boys’ High School in Johannesburg. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Disgruntled parents at Parktown Boys’ High School and alleged victims of abuse at the school have started a social media campaign calling on the Gauteng Department of Education and the school to remove teachers accused of misconduct. 

Dozens of allegations against the school’s teachers, administration and the department have been posted over the past week.
The campaign comes in the wake of the sentencing of a former waterpolo coach at the school, Collan Rex, convicted of molesting and assaulting at least 12 pupils during his tenure. 

In recent months, parents of the victims have lashed out at the department and the school for allegedly protecting teachers found to have been involved in misconduct including bullying, intimidation, allegedly bringing strippers onto the school premises and cultivating a culture of silence that prevented pupils from reporting abuse. 

The social media campaign makes allegations of beatings and bullying against educators at the school - current and former - as well as claims that the school governing body (SGB) failed to address these issues. 

However, the department has rallied to the school, saying all of the alleged incidents occurred before the current SGB and headmaster, Malcolm Williams, arrived at the school.

“The school under the current leadership, undertook to end the culture of silence and stop initiations that were identified as problematic at the school. They introduced a tool for pupils to report complaints anonymously. Pupils are encouraged to utilise all mechanisms introduced to report complaints,” said education department spokesperson Steve Mabona. 

Parktown SGB spokesperson Kim van Es said while the school was aware of the social media campaign, the school did not wish to comment on “anonymous posts”. 

“The SGB have always made it clear that the SGB will act on any allegations of misconduct, supported by evidence, which are brought to it. No such information has been provided,” she said.

She said the school had taken numerous steps to find a way forward for all members of the school community. According to Van Es, the school’s code of conduct had been reviewed by Dr John Buswell from the NGO Rapewise, while all forms of initiation had been banned. The Guardian app launched at the school also allows pupils to report concerns or unacceptable behaviour anonymously. 

She said the boarding house where much of the abuse from the coach took place now falls under “school structures and processes”, and that all staff appointments in the house would be ratified by the headmaster. 

“We applaud the courage and integrity of the boys who have come forward to report past incidents of abuse, initiation and racism, and we remain committed to eradicating all such unacceptable actions from our School,” said Van Es.

The Saturday Star