Monday, March 23, 2009

Brutal hazing includes allegations of sodomy, sexual abuse

Story link and source: The Star

'A boy was asked to suck another boy's penis'

February 20 2009 at 06:26AM

By Angelique Serrao

Education and child experts have revealed to The Star that the initiation ceremony at Parktown Boys' High School earlier this month was not an isolated incident, and occurred frequently in South African high schools and universities.

Kathy Callaghan of the Governor's Alliance, a parent organisation, said she frequently received reports from parents whose children were being physically abused and bullied at school.

"One of the common traits is that every parent wants to remain anonymous for fear of victimisation, but the truth is that if more parents come forward, then this practice would stop," Callaghan said.

She added that there was a very active old-boys network that not only threatened children who had been victims, but also their parents if they reported the incidents. The Star has been inundated with hundreds of calls, text messages and emails from parents who have experienced the heartache of seeing their sons go through these abusive situations at school, but fear their names being made public because of victimisation.

Click here!

Parents and pupils have contacted The Star to speak out about their experiences. A 16-year-old was subjected to so much physical abuse in the Parktown Boys' hostel that he is now seeing a psychologist and is on medication.

Other parents have reported that some initiation ceremonies also contained sexual abuse. One boy was asked to suck another boy's penis. One mother said both her sons in Grade 8 were forced to watch a pornographic movie and had to masturbate together in a room.

"My main question is: why is this being kept so silent? It has to come out once and for all," Callaghan said, adding that keeping abuse hidden could lead to bigger problems for children.

She knows of one case where a teenager was beaten two years ago. He told his parents, who opened a case against the school, but because of victimisation, it was withdrawn.

The teenager killed himself a month ago because of the pain it had caused him, Callaghan said. She has also heard of headmasters challenging parents who lay criminal charges, saying, "We know how to deal with those".

"This whole initiation/ bullying thing is unacceptable. People keep on saying it has been happening for years, so it must be okay, but just because it has been happening doesn't mean it is right," she said.

One mother told The Star that she had to take her son out of a boys' school in Pretoria last year because he was subjected to violent initiation ceremonies whichwere dismissed by the school, instead of being taken seriously.

The mother said she had heard through a network of
parents that many have had to take their sons out of boys' schools in Gauteng because of violent initiations.

Joan van Niekerk, the national co-ordinator of Childline, said the Parktown Boys' incident was not an initiation, but rather a form of bullying and an abuse of power.

Their call centre had been inundated with reports of bullying, mostly at boys' schools. The Department of Education's director-general has said this kind of activity was strictly prohibited and has urged parents to call the department's hotline and report any incidents.

Calls can be made anonymously.

SA Human Rights Commission chairperson Jody Kollapen said letters had been sent to Parktown Boys' and the Department of Education asking them what they would be doing about the incidents and asking them to put guidelines in place to ensure it won't happen again.

# Call Childline on 08000-55-555;

# Report any incidents, even if you choose to remain anonymous, to the department's hotline on 0800-20-29-33.

o This article was originally published on page 3 of The Star on February 20, 2009

Parents confront administrators over brutal hazing

'Initiation of new boys will stay'

February 26 2009 at 11:51AM

By Louise Flanagan

Violence at schools is wrong but initiation of new boys will stay, Parktown Boys' High heard on Thursday night.

"Initiation without violence is where we have to go. There can be no hint of intimidation and fear," principal Tom Clark told a school hall packed with parents.

The emotional meeting was called by the school to address the problems of violence, particularly assaults by older boys on younger boys associated with initiation practices, which The Star reported on last week.

Click here!

Clark emphasised that the school was against the abuse of power and the use of violence.

He said the perpetrators were "investigated and sanctioned", which included sending boys to counselling and giving them final warnings.

"There is absolutely no question that corporal punishment is not allowed," said Clark.

He emphasised the problem related to the school's hostel, rather than the school itself, but admitted it could be more widespread: "It was a hostel problem, but it has alerted us to the fact that it could be a school problem."

At the meeting, a lot of anger was directed at The Star because it reported how boys at the school were assaulted during initiation.

The anger appeared to be because the newspaper exposed the problems and embarrassed the school community.

Nobody at the meeting denied the problems existed.

Clark said it was difficult to take action to stop such problems and current legislation left him without power to act against violence. Instead it handed over these problems to a parents' disciplinary committee.

Boys were told how to behave but ignored this.

Clark said the hostel's boarders were given counselling on these sorts of issues just four hours before the initiation which sparked off the reports... but clearly only paid "lip service" to this.

No one at the meeting questioned keeping the practice of initiation.

He said the school would start running a "Boys to Men" programme to teach the boys how to deal with such issues.

Parktown will be the first Gauteng school to run this programme.

Clark said it was one of the best-attended meetings the school had held.

Parents filled the chairs, stood against the walls and sat on the floor.

Above them hung school flags: Trojans, Vulcans, Thebans, Spartans, Romans and Tuscans.

The school governing body told the parents they were "doing something" to address the problems, and mentioned they were considering installing cameras in classrooms.

Some parents stood up, many expressing support for the school. They were applauded.

Some raised concerns about the violence and abuse problems. They were also applauded.

Some cited specific incidents of problems. One mother was laughed at when she described her young son's miserable experience at a school camp.

Another parent called for the hostel head boy - implicated in the initiation violence - to be stripped of his title for the rest of the year, and was met with both applause and booing.

A parent was cheered when she called on the school to send the boys a "strong message" against using violence.

Another said there was a need to change the school culture, to break silence and enable boys to speak out against abuse.

A school governing body member complained that The Star had failed to run the school's comment in the stories.

The Star repeatedly called the school for comment last week.

Support for brutal initiations in South Africa continues: The Star, source

'Initiation happens anyway'
Solly Maphumulo
February 23 2009 at 04:38PM

Many Parktown Boys' High pupils sported purple ribbons this morning in solidarity with fellow pupils and a teacher who were suspended following last week's expose of brutal and violent initiation at the school.

Marc McLean, chairman of the parent body of the Druce Hall - where the initiation took place - had said on Friday that the motivation behind the ribbons should not be read as the boys' agreement with the initiation of other pupils at the hostel.

"You must understand there are 900 boys at the school, and what happened did not affect only the 12 or 14 boys but the entire school. The spirit in the school is so low and the boys are depressed because of this incident," he said.

A Grade 11 pupil, who cannot be named because he was not accompanied by a parent, was not wearing a purple ribbon this morning - but as soon as he arrived at school he rushed to get one.

He said this was to show that the pupils were united during this difficult time. He said the boy who spoke out about initiation at the school should not have done so.

"Initiation happens anyway," he said, adding that it was seen as a learning experience by pupils.

"We are united like never before. No publicity is bad publicity. We've learned from this. This has taught us to stick together. I think it was wrong for that boy to tell his mother," he said.

McLean had stressed that the boys were not in any way saying initiation was good, but that message was intended to uplift their spirits. "It is just to say we are with you (the victims and those who were suspended) and we understand what you are going through," he explained.

Bavinash Pillay, who was with his father Vishnu when he spoke to The Star, said he believed that the violence had to be reported. "I don't mind if they make me do something stupid. It can be anything as long as it doesn't cause (physical) pain," he said.

Parents broke their silence after a mother, Pene Kimber, approached The Star last week.

Her son had told her about the negative initiation.

o This article was originally published on page 3 of The Star on February 23, 2009

Brutal initiations continue in exclusive schools for boys: Cape Argus Times, source

Why not just abolish boys' schools?

February 25, 2009

By Mike Wills

Mike Wills

If you want a scary look at some damaged male psyches, then search the blogosphere at the moment for the comments flying around on school initiation practices.

The newspaper revelations of brutal and humiliating behaviour by matrics at Parktown Boys High in Johannesburg have sparked a froth of defensive indignation about traditions, "making a man of me", "building character", "good for house spirit" and "we're not a girls' school".

All of these old boys seem to have persuaded themselves that being forced to strip in the middle of the night, rub Deep Heat into your genitals and then be belted by cricket bats is actually a life-enhancing experience for a teenager.

The extent to which boys' school and varsity initiation practices take place and are overtly or covertly accepted in our society is bewildering to me. Such things exist to a varying degree all around the world, but we seem to be global leaders in these disturbing rituals.

Of course, very few institutions these days will actually use the word initiation and their leaders will, often too loudly, protest that such things never happen any more, but the reality is that in many instances it is still being done under another name.

Senior students continue to believe they have the tacit approval of the school or koshuis to put new arrivals through physical and emotional "tests" and then swear them to silence.

The majority, especially those who are physically strong, sail through this phase and would attest to quite enjoying it, but there are plenty who don't have such an easy ride and there are many parents across the Cape who have faced the same dilemma as Pene Kimber, the mother who blew the whistle on the Parktown incidents.

They know their child has been physically or psychologically as-saulted and yet to report such an event will bring unbearable consequences on the boy himself. Understandably, most choose to remain silent and hope the damage done, ultimately, isn't too great.

I seriously question the wisdom of Kimber in taking her story to the media, which never represents the best forum to deal with a child's problems, and I see little value in the engagement of the likes of the Human Rights Commission - but the level of snarling vitriol being directed at the mother for her outspoken stand is startling and deliberately intimidating.

Somewhere in those muddied male minds the reputation of a school is more important than the health of an individual boy, and pride in a koshuis, house, hostel or school is both exaggeratedly important and achievable through the infliction of pain and shame.

On a deeper psychological level they have a warped notion of issues like power, masculinity, violence and conformity.

While I have great sympathy for the tough task facing heads of schools or universities at the moment, I suspect some of them haven't really grasped this nettle.

They believe there is a half-way house, that there are some good things buried within initiation practices and they will justify this by referring to a boy's deep need for identification. They also think that the process is intrinsic to their institution's identity - it will be a different, less distinctive and somehow diminished place without these time-honoured traditions.

And they sometimes don't listen to the sounds of silence - no one's complaining, therefore there is no problem. They are then surprised when the issue explodes on them.

Potchefstroom Boys' High principal Martin Cartwright is one who has confronted the problem, saying: "You have to stop it entirely. There is no middle ground."

Cartwright restructured his hostels along age lines to reduce bullying and initiation. He acknowledges that it has affected things like house spirit and that it's been an uphill battle "because traditions don't die easily", but if he can reduce the climate of fear and intimidation within the school then he will have made it a better place for new boys, if not for the nostalgic old boys.

No one can expect a school or koshuis to totally eradicate this kind of behaviour. In the over-used and abused expression, "boys will be boys" - they will do daft and humiliating things and display poor judgment. There are always going to be kids who take unhealthy advantage of the heady power they have, briefly, in their hands.

But the institution must never condone such behaviour nor turn a blind eye to it. No one should try to pretend it doesn't exist nor can it be buried in euphemisms and secretly codified into accepted practice.

The easiest solution, of course, would be to abolish boys' schools altogether. As far as I'm aware, co-educational establishments don't have these problems. Girls look on such behaviour with a bewildered disdain that a few more men would do well to learn to imitate.

Opinion two: same source

Telling initiation from abuse
2009-03-16 16:07:28
Related Articles

    * Probe into initiation after student injured
    * Matie initiation rites decline, says varsity as inquiry into injury begins
    * Cape bid to regulate initiation schools
    * Parktown High boys whipped and beaten in initiation rite
    * Teacher and 12 matrics suspended over school initiation
    * Pupils show support for initiation bullies
    * Initiation to stay - Parktown principal
    * Students expelled from residence after 'hazing'

Initiation is fine as long as it's positive. It has been with mankind as long as people have lived in groups and celebrated rites of passage: from youth to adulthood, from being single to being married, and upon admission to religious groups, clans, tribes, universities, schools and sports teams.

The importance of positive initiation can hardly be over-estimated. Properly managed, it welcomes the newcomer; shores up his confidence; fosters a bond between the new members and the old; explains the systems in place and their core values; spells out principles and priorities; clarifies the realities of seniority, leadership and responsibility; and advises on behaviour, understanding of tradition and the necessity for two-way respect.

Things go wrong in schools when misguided authorities and senior pupils pervert the role of initiation.

It becomes a means to humiliate and abuse, physically and psychologically. It ignores positive options, embraces the negative and trivialises the concept of corporate pride. Alienation from the heart and soul of the school dominates.

Notions of inclusivity are bypassed and sensitivities brushed aside. Indoctrination insists that only through the experience of personal suffering at the hands of stronger and older pupils is the attainment of adulthood possible.

This is bizarre. Who can seriously support the view that commends the violation of the weak by the strong? The whole point of civilised societies is that the strong protect the weak - as Robert Browning might have asked, "or what's a heaven for?". But in schools where unacceptable behaviour is rationalised as "tradition", group pressure sustains a cycle of irrational cruelty.

When parents who truly care about their children complain, they elicit facile and insulting responses from professional people who ought to know better: "we've all been through it"; "you're being overprotective"; "it's not serious".

In calls I have received there have been tales of broken noses, broken collar bones, damage to the genitals, extreme physical exertion, random punching in dark rooms and constant insults.

In this context, the matter of sexual interference needs to be seriously addressed - it occurs frequently and may indicate perpetrators themselves have been sexually abused. (I think I am right in saying that sexual molestation of minors by anyone 18 or over is paedophilia.)

I have had contact with a number of previous perpetrators who say they are haunted by what they did to others, two of whom indicated they would "give anything" to apologise to those they harmed.

All schools need to turn towards sensible and sensitive approaches to those in their care. Parents have not invested mere stocks and shares; they have invested their own children, their most precious assets.

It is the school's obvious duty to protect them and provide an environment in which they can realise their potential, grow in confidence and make a contribution to their new community.

Before their children enter the school, parents should insist on a detailed report of what tradition means, what initiation involves and how these fit into the school's mission statement and culture.

They must seek confirmation that no victimisation will follow exposure of ill-treatment of any pupil.

When bullying is uncovered, heads must avoid the absurd tactic of hiding behind shameful and fatuous protestations. They should state unequivocally that new pupils will be safe from abusive behaviour, that parents can rest secure in the assurance that those who inflict dangerous initiation on any member of the school body will be punished.

For their part, parents should counsel their children to listen and look, more than make pre-emptive comments about their new school.

Leadership must be conceived as service - prefects and seniors educated in mentorship. Along with accepted disciplinary measures, positive reinforcement should be employed to underpin the relationship between older and younger pupils.

This is not news to enlightened schools which operate in this way already. Genuine leadership ensures that young boys grow into men without applied malice; there are enough challenges in any school to promote strength in the face of adversity and development into maturity. Those seniors who do not buy into the concept of enlightened leadership should not be appointed as prefects.

Parents should counsel their young sons that under no account must they repeat the negative initiation of their early years.

All it takes to break the cycle is for one brave leader to say: "Enough. No more. From now on our traditions will be built on mutual regard and team spirit. We are all members of the same family." There needs to be networking, close co-operation with parents and the media, alertness to transgressions, perhaps an organisation to help those in need. This is only the start.

# Jardine is an educator and former school principal