The death of a 14-year-old who was stabbed by a fellow pupil on Monday at Thuto Tiro Comprehensive School in Sebokeng has renewed fears that initiation schools in the area may be a breeding ground for school violence.
Parents and teachers allege that incidents of bullying and gangsterism in schools here were caused by groups of boys, who recently graduated from various initiation schools.
A teacher at Thuto Tiro Comprehensive School told the Sunday Independent that despite gangsterism being a problem at the school, this week’s incident was purely a tragic accident.
The two pupils, who are said to be best friends, were playing with a pair of scissors in the classroom when the incident happened.
“There was another incident two months ago when a group of boys from another school attacked one of our learners at Thuto Tiro.
“They accused him of being troublesome to other children.
“Older boys are problematic. Sometimes they don’t heed our instructions and are uncontrollable.
“As teachers, we don’t have a choice because they are in the system, and we have to keep them in the school, even when they are 20 and still in Grade 11,” he said.
A parent who lives opposite Thuto Tiro, John Motete, said he witnessed several incidents outside the school yard instigated by pupils who graduated from different initiation schools.
Another parent, Lucy Mabaso, said parents feared for the safety of their children at the school due to gang-related violence which occurred regularly outside the school premises.
The sentiments were also echoed by a Grade 11 pupil who confirmed there were several attacks perpetrated by pupils from other schools who came to their school to attack his schoolmates who recently returned from initiation school. He said most incidents took place earlier this year.
A security guard at Tokelo Secondary School, who wanted to remain anonymous, said turf wars fought by initiation graduates continued to be waged in the school despite numerous efforts to contain them.
“The fights are mostly between groups who were initiated in the Free State and those who went to Sebokeng near the N1. The fights are over who was initiated better than the other.
They formed groups such as Ma-Wrong turn, West Rider and Kgwabas, based on where they were initiated.
“But the last time I saw this kind of fight was last year,” he said, pointing out that these rival gangs armed themselves with pangas and sjamboks and attacked each other at school.
Apart from turf wars, the guard said bullying was also rampant among the pupils and confirmed that another fatal incident happened last month, between a Grade 10 pupil who was stabbed by a Grade 9 pupil while fighting over a cellphone.
Regional chairperson of the National Association of School Governing Bodies in the Vaal, Gabs Maboe said initiations influenced school violence. He blamed the authorities for failing to apply policies to curb violence in schools.
Gauteng Education spokesperson Steve Mabona said the department was working with the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, SAPS and local municipalities to mitigate the negative effects of initiates in the school environment.
Mabona said in the past two years, the department held three camps where they hosted identified ‘gangsters’ operating in various schools, hoping to influence behavioural change in the pupils.
“Principals are being capacitated on disciplinary procedures for learners focusing on suspensions and expulsions as part of reclaiming schools from clutches of ill-disciplined and disruptive learners most of whom are over-aged,” said Mabona.
In 2017, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL) suspended all initiation school activities in Gauteng after concerns of criminality, malpractice and unfavourable conditions.
CRL chief executive Edward Mafadza said, in a report, there were a number of challenges experienced at various initiation schools including bogus initiation schools which became a breeding ground for criminal activities.
“As a result of these hearings, the commission found that some of the young men who went to these bogus centres came back turned into criminals and members of some gangs,” said Mafadza.