SHAMBYU – Classes at one of the country’s top-performing school, St Boniface College in Kavango East, were disrupted yesterday after pupils staged a march alleging unfair and ill-treatment at the hands of the school management.
The protest was triggered by the suspension of learners over what the pupils termed “petty things”.
According to the learners, one suspended pupil was allegedly beaten by the hostel mother.
However, the school suspended the learner and two others without hearing her side of the story, the pupils alleged. The hostel mother reportedly rushed to report the learners to the school management, saying they were misbehaving in the dormitory.
The grade 9 learner was allegedly beaten by a hostel mother after she was found making noise with the other two learners who hosted a birthday party of a fellow pupil.
The learners alleged the hostel mother also punished some learners to sleep on the floor outside the hostel dormitory without blankets at night, as they were reportedly caught making noise.
“The hostel mother locked the door to their dormitory, so they went to report to one of the teachers but the teacher took them to the headmaster’s office,” said a learner who spoke on behalf of the group.
“The learners asked the principal if corporal punishment was allowed and the two learners who asked, along with the one that was allegedly beaten by the hostel mother, were suspended to go call their parents. So we are protesting in solidarity of our fellow learners and we feel we are not treated well by the school; we are treated like prisoners in a concentration camp,” the learner said.
The school’s principal, Mary Phillis Yesudasan, said she has asked the protesting learners to put their grievances in writing.
“We just saw them demonstrating and we didn’t know why. So we spoke to them and they aired their grievances, and we asked them to put it in writing so the school can go through it and see where can we fix,” she said.
“If there are grievances, they were supposed to come to the office so we solve them but no one approached me. I am shocked.”
Regarding the suspended learners, Yesudasan said she was not aware of their side of the story and acknowledged she only listened to her staff member.
She admitted she could have handled the matter differently.
“I was only informed later that there was a girl beaten by the hostel mother. I had no idea and they didn’t give us time to investigate the issue but they decided to protest. Regarding discipline, I am very strict; they should do tasks on time as well as get to class on time for class or studies if they call me a dictator, it is fine,” she said.
The learners yesterday submitted their grievances through a petition, and Yesudasan promised not to victimise them for their protest.