Bullying and homophobic abuse: Probe unveils school’s negligence in pupil’s suicide
An investigation into the death of a Grade 6 pupil revealed that he was subjected to verbal abuse.
Sibusiso Mbatha, the Grade 6 boy pupil at Khehlekile Primary School who tragically took his own life on 23 October. Picture: Supplied by GDE.
The Grade 6 pupil from Khehlekile Primary School, who committed suicide on 23 October, suffered abuse, allegedly at the hands of staff members of the school.
Gauteng Education MEC Matome Chiloane revealed this on Thursday in a briefing on the findings of an investigation into the circumstances leading to 12-year-old Sibusiso Mbatha’s death.
Mbatha was found hanging in his family’s bathroom after allegedly being bullied and verbally attacked.
According to the department, Mbatha woke up that fateful morning in his usual cheerful mood and went to school.
At school, he was involved in an altercation with another pupil in his classroom and “it didn’t end well”.
“The boys were sent to reception; that’s when one of the teachers met up with him, and in his own version, he conceded that he reprimanded the boy. He was reprimanded for his gay tendencies and told to leave them outside the school gate,” said the department.
When he went home, his mother said Mbatha was not the same person who left in the morning.
The department said there was substance and merit in the complaints that the deputy principal incited and contributed to the incident.
“There is also merit that the teachers that had an encounter with Sibusiso also did not handle the matter properly in terms of the processes and the protocol of discipline,” it said.
No support was provided to Mbatha after school following the incident.
“When he got home, the mother saw the child not being the same person that he was. That’s how the child said, ‘I’m not happy, I don’t want to go to school’.”
The school also failed to fill in the incident book as required by the law, “so we found that there was negligence on the part of responsible teachers”, said the department.
“The allegations of emotional and homophobic abuse by the deputy principal are substantiated by the evidence given to us through questioning and interviewing of all the witnesses.
“The process that was used by one of the teachers – the HOD and class teacher – in handling the matter when the child was having altercations with a classmate was not handled properly by those particular teachers.
“We also found that the deputy principal ill-treated, blasphemed and homophobically abused the deceased. The allegations have merit; we have evidence that concurs with that allegation.
“The incident caused the deceased to commit suicide. He was subjected to verbal and very public reprimand for his sexual choices and orientation. The utterances led to this incident.”
They found that the deputy principal and principal had misconducted themselves in how they handled this incident.
The report recommended that the deputy principal be placed on precautionary suspension and a charge sheet served to him to appear before a disciplinary inquiry for allegedly ill-treating, blaspheming, homophobically abusing the deceased and making utterances that caused the death of the pupil.
The principal be charged in that he failed to uphold the duties as prescribed to him.
The family was presented with the report before it was publicised.