SOUTH AFRICA: A Durban school principal could find himself in hot water over claims that he connived with a teacher from his school to cover up an incident in which a pupil was allegedly beaten with a stick, which resulted in the boy's hand being fractured.
For the past two weeks, 15-year-old Ashlen Haripersad, who is in grade 10 at the Stanmore Secondary School in Phoenix, has been watching many of his fellow pupils' activities from the sidelines because he cannot use his injured right hand.
His angry parents have called on the department of education to take action against the teacher from the school who allegedly beat Ashlen, and the principal, whom they accuse of trying to sweep the matter under the carpet to "safeguard the school's image".
The parents say the teacher and the principal, whose names are both known to the Daily News, drew up an affidavit in which the teacher committed himself to pay for all the medical expenses in exchange for the parents not blowing the whistle on the matter.
'When I got home, my child's hand was severely swollen' The incident comes months after a pupil from a school in Mpumalanga township, outside Pinetown, died after he was beaten up by a teacher for being late.
The beating sparked a national outcry and brought home the harsh reality that some pupils were still being subjected to corporal punishment despite the fact that it was banned years ago by the government.
The distraught mother of Ashlen, Lorna, said on Wednesday that she would not rest until justice had been done in the matter.
"The incident happened on February 15. According to Ashlen, his only crime was that the teacher caught him playing with his fingers on a stool.
He then took a stick and hit him on his hand, resulting in the stick breaking.
"After the incident the teacher took my son to the deputy principal, who did not want to listen to my son's side of the story and gave Ashlen a reprimand letter. When I got home, my child's hand was severely swollen."
She said she then decided to take the matter up with the principal.
"The next day I went to the school and approached the principal and the teacher. The teacher admitted to assaulting my child and offered to pay for all the medical expenses.
"The principal asked me not to pursue the matter as it would give the school a bad name. The principal asked the secretary at the school to draw up an affidavit in which the teacher committed himself to paying for the medical expenses."
Lorna said she then took up the matter with African National Congress MP Omie Singh.
She said an X-ray report by a doctor, which is in the possession of the Daily News, had confirmed her worst fears that Ashlen's hand had been fractured.
"The doctor said the child has sustained fractures to his fourth and fifth fingers."
When the Daily News visited the school the principal, who identified himself as Dr P Arjun, refused to speak to the reporter.
The provincial minister for education, Ina Cronje, said corporal punishment was not only barbaric, but would not be tolerated. [Emphasis added]
"We will investigate the case and will take very strong disciplinary action against the educators if the allegations are proven to be true," she said.
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