Already facing criticism for not acting adequately after the bullying – and ultimately suicide – of Limpopo schoolgirl Lufuno Mavhunga, the principal of Mbilwi Secondary School has now been caught up in a corporal punishment scandal involving another bullying case.
Mavhunga took her own life after being bullied and beaten by a fellow pupil at the school in Limpopo.
During a fact-finding trip to the school last Wednesday by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), principal Nyambeni Lidzhade admitted to punishing a pupil in his office in relation to another bullying case.
The incident took place in Lidzhade’s office in March and is unrelated to the events surrounding Mavhunga’s death.
Victor Mavhidula, provincial manager for the SAHRC in Limpopo, confirmed that after he showed Lidzhade a video recording of the March 24 beating, he confessed to inflicting corporal punishment on the pupil.
Mavhidula said Lidzhade’s admission was made in the presence of two of his officials and some staff members of the school.
“I was asking questions, and he was responding, and my colleagues were taking notes. I asked him: ‘Are you aware that corporal punishment is outlawed,’ and he just kept quiet,” said Mavhidula.
Corporal punishment was banned in SA schools in 1996.
Lidzhade referred queries concerning the corporal punishment allegation to the recently elected governing body.
Fhulufhedzani Netshitavhe, chairperson of the school governing body, said in the March bullying case, the mother of the perpetrator arrived at school with him and his two elder brothers.
“They were trying to reprimand him. They put a stick on his palm so the principal raised up his hand and took the stick and showed him [one of the brothers] how to apply a stick with their permission.”
He said one of the brothers took a video of the principal using the stick on the perpetrator.
“He [Lidzhade] reports to the department of education. What we shall expect is the intervention of the department of education in the case and that they deal with him because they are his superiors.”
Sunday Times Daily has been reliably informed that Lidzhade had used a sjambok – and not a stick – that was normally kept in his office. But the governing body said he had caned the boy, not sjambokked him.
Fulufhelo Madzivhandila, the father of Grade 10 pupil, said his son was assaulted by the boy while he was waiting for transport to return home.
“I am sad and disappointed about what happened, and we had to assure our son that everything will be OK if he returns to school.”
He said he did not know why his son was assaulted.
Lidzhade has previously received acclaim for his work as the school’s principal, regularly achieving a 100% matric pass rate.
News of Lufuno’s death made headlines after it was found that the 15-year-old took her own life just hours after being beaten by another 15-year-old girl, who was then charged for assault.
Video footage of the incident, which went viral, showed Lufuno being repeatedly slapped in the face after being confronted by two pupils.
A pupil could be seen trying to come between the bully and Lufuno as the slaps continued despite Lufuno telling the attacker she was getting hurt.
Three pupils, including a 15-year-old who was charged with assaulting Lufuno, have been slapped with a seven-day suspension from school.