The recent incident leading up to the absolutely unnecessary death of Parktown Boys High School pupil, Enoch Mpianzi, has carved up an opportunity for the Department of Education to scrutinise initiation rituals that learners are made to undergo; as well as the bullying that has been going on in schools, particularly boarding schools. While some mainstream news outlets shockingly painted the whole ordeal as having to do with the economic status of the Mpianzi family, it the unnecessary customs and the shocking negligence which are connected to reportedly on-going abuse which must come under scrutiny.
It is a well-known fact that these schools have orientation traditions that usually have hazing as a parallel ‘mission’ to be undertaken by novices in order for them to gain acceptance into the wider and older community within these institutions. Or, to gain the acknowledgement of powerful groups of learners which are allowed to run certain programmes in the name of tradition. Hazing, although not officially sanctioned by the schools, takes place and is an open-secret. The phenomenon can lead to injury, can be damaging to self-esteem, has other psychological strains as well, and the whole process is a guarded secret.
This secrecy could be the reason that abuse or bullying and even more worryingly, sexual assault and molestation, although uncovered, will remain secret at such a high profile school as Parktown Boys, according to a report by Luke Lamprecht who is an expert in Child Protection and Development, further confirmed by the school’s former water polo assistant coach, Collan Rex’s admission to multiple counts of charges of sexual assault in South Gauteng High Court.
The seriousness of secrecy within Parktown Boys has not only seen everyone turn a blind eye to years of sexual abuse of novices as noted by Lamprecht’s report, basically a cover up and a repression of facts, but they have also responded with mystery to questions about the death of Mpianzi. This secrecy and the manner in which the school’s orientation was conducted, has caused some commenting through social media that the activity was an initiation ritual. Dirk Nel of Inyathi Sports School and Lodge where Enoch drowned, said the incident was a ‘survival exercise’. Indeed the school has also reacted with indifference while some revealing allegations made on Twitter have emerged; saying that a certain Mr Williams was dismissive of Mpianzi’s school mates reporting that he the learner was swept by strong currents in the river. In any case, the school has previously been slapped with a lawsuit for violence and abused during alleged initiation ritual.