On 22 September 2011, Malibongwe Melani, a Grade 12 learner at Chris Hani High School, was assaulted by two Bambanani security guards on the school grounds. Melani was hospitalised after the attack. The school’s principal, Madoda Mahlutshana, by his own admission was present at the time of the assault. The Western Cape Education Department's (WECD) investigation found that Mr Mahlutshana did not act wrongfully in regards to Malibongwe.
This is problematic for several reasons.
No party has denied that an assault did take place on the school grounds that day, at which the principal was present, and directly after which a learner was hospitalised. No one has been charged for this assault, and no action has been taken against the principal or the school. Therefore no consequences have yet come about from this assault. It is because of this that the learners of Chris Hani feel that justice has not been done for Malibongwe, and that issues of violence and of poor school governance in their school have not been addressed.
This week, Grade 12 learners at Chris Hani have repeatedly called for an opportunity to express their grievances, and for Mr Mahlutshana and the Department of Education to respond to their questions. Instead, they have allegedly been met with intimidation and harassment, apparently under the behest of Mr Mahlutshana. Equal Education has been alerted to a number of incidents this week that are cause for great concern.
According to first hand accounts of learners at Chris Hani, on Wednesday 12 October, Mr Mahlutshana and the School Management Team addressed the Grade 12D class (Malibongwe’s home class). Soon after, a group of police entered the classroom, some of them armed. Learners were searched, supposedly for drugs and weapons. The Grade 12D class was the only group subjected to the search. The learners felt afraid and traumatised, and thought they would be arrested.
Following the search, the Grade 12 group was assembled. They were addressed by a police representative who told them that they had a list of the names, addresses and telephone numbers of 10 learners. They were told that if they ‘did one more thing,’ these learners would be arrested, reported to the Department of Education and prevented from writing their final exams.
In response to these extremely troubling events, Equal Education:
- Supports the right of Chris Hani learners to take action to ensure that the problems in their school are addressed by the WCED, and that a proper and thorough criminal investigation into Malibongwe’s assault must take place.
- Calls for the report on the investigation into Mr Mahlutshana’s role in the assault to be made public in order to establish the legitimacy of its findings. EE has been informed by the WCED that the report will not be released. This is unacceptable.
- Calls on all participants in the march to remain peaceful and disciplined at all times, and to keep the safety of high school learners a priority.
- Calls on the South African Police Service to keep in mind that the participants in this march will be high school learners, many of them children, and to show the appropriate restraint and discipline required.
- Calls for an end to tactics of intimidation being used against Chris Hani learners, and for a dialogue to be opened between the Chris Hani learners and the WCED to ensure that learners’ deep grievances are addressed, and to work towards returning a situation of normalcy to the school
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