Durban – Dealing with drug issues has landed a school principal in hot water.
Police on Friday escorted Inderan Govender from Effingham Secondary School north of Durban amid jeering pupils and parents who accused him of being heavy-handed.
The drama that unravelled followed the arrival of five men on Thursday who allegedly took selected pupils from class, accused them of drug dealing, then stripped and assaulted them, armed with knuckle-dusters, according to parents and pupils.
“They pulled me out of class and told the teacher that the principal would like to see me,” a Grade 11 pupil told The Independent on Saturday.
“They pushed me into the toilet and one asked if they could search me. I said ‘no’. Another pushed me and took my shoes.
“Then, one guy pushed my head under water in a basin.”
He said he was also stripped and, when he put his clothes back on, saw they had put cigarettes in his clothes and a “banky” (plastic bank bag) of dagga in his pocket.
“Then they held me against the wall and punched me in the ribs. I have had to take anti-inflammatories,” he said.
Another Grade 11 pupil said the men called him during break while he had been sitting on a bench.
“He called me to the toilet and kept calling me a drug dealer. They didn’t search me. They just beat me and took me to an office, and continued.”
There he was joined by two other boys from grades 8 and 9.
“They started beating the boys and the Grade 9 guy got it the worst. He was punched as if he was a criminal.”
The school’s Zulu teacher arrived and asked the men what they were doing to the boys, the pupil said.
“They told her they were talking to us and they wanted us to deny (their assault). I didn’t deny it.”
Another Grade 11 pupil said one of the men pushed a chair into his chest.
“They kept saying I was a drug dealer, but there was no evidence.”
A 15-year-old told how he was Tazered and hit “with gloves with iron”, a reference to knuckle-dusters.
Pupils also spoke of girls being Tazered and, on seeking shelter in the principal’s office, being called “bitches” by the principal’s personal assistant.
Parents said that last year, the principal had introduced the men to people at the school, saying “these are my five ous”, said parent Daryll Naidoo.
Some parents said one of the “goons” who laid into the children this week was Kevin Naicker, who had just been elected to the governing body.
“In every school there are drugs, so that was the reason they came. But the way they acted was disrespectful to all the children,” said Naidoo.
Parents said their children had been traumatised and would need to undergo counselling.
Local education officials addressed the parents yesterday morning, saying an investigation would start on Monday and that Govender would not be back until it was finalised.
Minutes later, Govender walked out of the school with police around him and, as parents and pupils jeered, he went to the parking lot, got into a car and left the grounds.
Govender would not comment.
His legal advisor Urvashi Singh said Friday afternoon that he had taken ill and had been taken to his doctor. She said comment would have to come from the provincial education department.
One parent has laid a charge of common assault at Greenwood Park police station.
“We are appealing to other parents to come forward,” said spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane.
Meanwhile, Sam Pillay, the director of the Chatsworth Anti-Drug Forum, said drugs in schools were becoming a bigger problem by the day due to a lack of effective arrests and convictions.
“It’s become bigger because there are no consequences. People are not getting caught. They have no fear.”
Pillay added that dealers were so brazen they had runners operating in the schools. Where security is lax, they have easy access. Where it is better, they tend to employ pupils.
“For principals, it’s a nightmare. Sometimes they are threatened. Sometimes dealers want to do things like supply meals to schools, fix the plumbing and build good relations so that they are not targeted.”
In another beleaguered school, near Pinetown, almost no teaching has taken place in the three weeks of this academic year.
Irate parents at Mariannridge Secondary School, which is known to have a drug problem, met the principal and councillor Reginald Cloete on Thursday to discuss the lack of teaching, which had led to pupils leaving the school early every day.
One parent put it down to two teachers turning others against the principal because one wanted his position.
“It’s hard to get them out because they are members of the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union.”
However, the parent said the two teachers had since “come on board”.
“I think they got a fright,” he said yesterday.
Matric pupils said their schooling has been held hostage by in-fighting between teachers.
The principal referred comment to the provincial education department.
By the time of publication, the department had not responded on the Effingham Secondary School incident and lack of teaching at Mariannridge Secondary School.