Four primary school boys are being investigated for allegedly raping four younger boys at school while they were helping to pack furniture away, the Western Cape education department said
“We are absolutely appalled by this incident,” said spokesperson Jessica Shelver.
“It is of great concern to us that learners of such a young age are not only aware of such behavior but are allegedly engaging in it.
“This kind of behavior is learned – learned at home, in communities and perhaps at schools too. We have to do everything possible as a society to make our world a safer place for the children in our care.”
Shelver said the four boys from a school in the Cape Winelands were allegedly raped in November.
The pupils were apparently packing away furniture that had been used at a school function.
“The victims reported that a learner locked the library door, and reportedly instructed two other learners to sodomise the four boys.
“Of the four victims, three were in Grade 4 at the time, and one was in Grade 5.”
There were four alleged perpetrators. One of two alleged to have been “observers” is said to have locked the door and told two others what to do.
Of those four, one was in Grade 6 last year, and three were in Grade 7.
Shelver said they were immediately suspended and a disciplinary committee later recommended expulsion.
The parents of three victims have moved their children to another school, while one of the victims is still at the school.
Call for urgent intervention
The matter was reported to the police and the department understands that an investigation is underway.
Comment was not immediately available from the police.
Shelver said the victims were getting bi-weekly visits from a provincial education department social worker, but Witzenberg Rural Development Centre paralegal Naomi Betana disputed that the children and parents were getting support.
“The boys were only consulted once,” said Betana, calling for urgent escalated intervention.
She said psychiatrists should immediately start counselling all of the children and their families at the state’s expense and that other state support services must act urgently to find out if this incident was an isolated one or not and whether children were still in danger.
Betana said the mother of one of the victims has to wait until the end of February for her appointment with a counsellor.
‘Rape is about power’
“One parent asked, ‘How do I speak to him? I don’t know what to do. Must I ask him every day if he is okay, I don’t know. Can I hug him?'”
In addition, one victim who moved to another school found that one of the alleged perpetrators had moved to the same school.
The farmworker father of one of the victims was so traumatised that he could not focus on his work and wanted to resign.
However, this would mean the family would have to move out of the house provided for them on the farm he works on. Betana said the centre was helping him make a rational decision and had informed him of his tenant’s rights while he recovers emotionally.
She said the system was failing not only the victims but also the alleged perpetrators.
“This is not a straightforward thing. They are young, but being lost in the system like this – they are throwing them to the lions,” she said.
“When it comes to rape it’s about power. Zoom into the lives of 13-year-olds, 14-year-olds and ask – why would children want to have power like that?”