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Thursday, 16 November 2023 22:16

Deputy principal placed on suspension after implicated in 12-year-old learner's suicide.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

An investigation report into the suicide death of Sibusiso Mbatha revealed that the deputy principal swore and homophobically mistreated the deceased.

The report that was released at the school in Thokoza, Springs on Thursday morning. 

Mbatha was involved in a physical altercation with a fellow pupil. He was then reprimanded by the deputy principal telling him to: "Leave your gay tendencies outside the classroom."

On the same day, Mbatha was found hanging from the bathroom ceiling in his home.

On Thursday, MEC Matome Chiloane released the report by Rangata Attorneys who he appointed to probe the role of the teacher, deputy principal and the school in the incident.

"The allegations of emotional and homophobic abuse against the learner, by the deputy principal, are substantiated by the evidence that is given to us through questioning and interviewing all the witnesses.

"We also found that the processes that were used by the class teachers and the [head of department] in handling the matter when the child had altercations with a classmate was [not proper]," said attorney and lead investigator Baitseng Rangata.

The report further found that the teacher in question failed to follow protocol and record the incident in the relevant records and that the principal failed to uphold his duties by failing to alert members of the school governing body and rather prioritised other members of the community. 

"We also found that the teachers, in their conduct, being the employees of the department means the department becomes vicariously liable. This is a legal matter which is regulated in terms of the South African Schools Act. The responsibility and liability will still need to be looked into," continued Rangata.

The report recommends that the deputy principal should be placed on precautionary suspension.

"…and a charge sheet be set on him to appear before a disciplinary inquiry for ill-treating, blaspheming, homophobically abusing the deceased and also making utterances that caused the death of the learner."

Furthermore, the recommendations are that the principal, HOD, and class teacher should be charged and face disciplinary processes.

Furthermore, Chilaone welcomed the findings and recommendations by Rangata Attorneys and said they were committed to implementing them accordingly.

"No one must feel that their rights are undermined, compromised, or disrespected at our schools," he said.

His mother, Mpumi Mbatha said, learning that four adults at the school failed her son had reopened the wound of losing her child.

"I took my child to a school, not to a butchery to be slaughtered. I didn't know that I was taking my child to be killed, if I knew I it I would have taken him elsewhere. I won't ever see him again, and his dreams were ended by adults."

Chiloane said disciplinary processes against the implicated staffers would be instituted within the next three months. He confirmed the deputy principal was already placed on precautionary suspension.

* Anyone with thoughts of suicide can call Sadag 080 056 7567 or SMS 31393.