News24 Wire
Wire Service
2 minute read
24 Jan 2020
9:11 pm

Continued ‘culture of silence’ at Parktown Boys’ High concerns education dept

News24 Wire

The school governing body would need to give answers about the censoring of pupils even after a 2018 report, Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said.

Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi speaks at the Gauteng department of education's press briefing on the Parktown Boys' High drowning debacle, 24 January 2020. Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

The Gauteng Education Department says it is concerned about a continued “culture of silence” at Parktown Boys’ High School, even though it had abolished and changed the school’s code of conduct.

Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said in the wake of the latest scandal at the embattled school it had learnt that the “culture of silence” continued. He added that the school governing body (SGB) would need to give answers about the censoring of pupils even after a 2018 report.

In August 2018, Peter Harris of Harris Nupen Molebatsi Attorneys released the report commissioned by the department.

The practices include “sexually predatory behaviour” by senior pupils against junior pupils, a culture of assault and sexual assault under the guise of “initiation practices” and “profoundly shocking” utterances made by teachers in the presence of pupils.

The report also flagged the “culture of silence” and school trips, whether they were indeed formal trips or initiation trips.

“The report differentiated between initiations and the camps because some outings were educational,” said Lesufi.

One of the changes was that the school’s male boarding master was replaced by a female following the release of the 2018 report. Lesufi said the changes in the school’s code of conduct also gave freedom to pupils to express their views when they needed to.

“But we have been told [pupils] were still told to keep quiet, which simply means we changed it on paper but the culture continued,” he said.

The elite school has been in the spotlight, making negative headlines, since its former water polo coach pleaded guilty to 144 counts of sexual assault involving 12 schoolboys and was sentenced to 20 years in jail in 2018.

Lesufi said the department cannot continue having one of its schools making headlines for the wrong reasons, which is why steps were being taken.

He added, however, that there was still hope for the school, and the option of shutting it down was not advisable.

“The best mechanism is to remove those that are not sharing the same vision as us,” he said.

Lesufi added that there have also been calls for Parktown Boys’ and Parktown Girls’ High to be merged, but those were matters for the SGB and schools to discuss.

The MEC added that the department was worried that the school continued to use Nyati Bush and River Break lodge even though there were reports of previous drownings there.

“It took a mere Google [search] from me to pick up the 2010 drowning at the camp. It’s part of the reason why we are acting to say a basic check would have confirmed that this place has a history,” Lesufi said.

Park Town Boys’ High has been in the news again after 13-year-old Enoch Mpianzi drowned at the lodge last Wednesday. His body was found two days later.

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