The Gauteng Department of Education was forced to launch an investigation at Hope Learners with Special Educational Needs in Westcliff, Johannesburg, after a series of incidents came to light recently, including assault, rape and drug usage.
The department said it was currently aware of two alleged rape incidents that occurred at the school.
The most recent incident allegedly took place on October 26, where a Grade 12 boy learner allegedly raped a Grade 4 boy learner at the school boarding facility.
A previous incident took place on February 14, where a Grade 9 boy learner allegedly raped a Grade 8 girl learner.
The department assured that cases of sexual assault were opened with the police for both these incidents, and the alleged perpetrators were suspended.
“As a precautionary measure, the alleged Grade 12 perpetrator has been temporarily accommodated at a different school in order to write his final examinations,” said Gauteng Department of Education spokesperson, Steve Mabona.
“Our officials have been in constant communication with the parents of all affected learners, providing necessary support.”
In another incident of assault, a learner was hospitalised after fellow learners unlocked his electric wheelchair, causing him to lose control and sustain severe injuries.
The incident is alleged to have taken place after school when the learners were reportedly playing around on the school premises on September 14.
The department said the injured learner has not returned to school, and is recuperating at home, while the other learners were taken through necessary disciplinary processes.
Another concerning incident involved a learner allegedly bringing space cookies to school and sharing them with his fellow learners. Educators reported this incident after noticing learners displaying strange behaviour.
Eight learners tested positive for drug usage, and the perpetrator was suspended, the department confirmed.
In addition, the previous principal of the school was charged for different allegations, however, the department said she was exonerated by the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC).
“The department is working tirelessly to come to an amicable solution concerning the principal’s return and ensuring the school operates effectively,” Mabona said.
“In light of all these events, it is paramount to launch an investigation that will probe the circumstances of these incidents and hold possible individuals accountable. This action by the department will be concurrent with police investigations into sensitive matters occurring at the school.
“We are hopeful the police will handle these cases with the sensitivity they deserve. We urge staff, learners and parents to report such incidents to the department via our relevant districts so that they are investigated accordingly,” he said.
Gauteng Education MEC Matome Chiloane said he hoped this investigation would assist to “uproot instances of ill-discipline and maladministration”.
“The department relentlessly appeals to parents and school staff to work together in an effort to educate our learners within a conducive environment at all times.
“In some instances, learner ill-discipline is easily necessitated by what is happening in the learner’s environment. As such, if teachers don’t respect each other, this might enable learners to misbehave,” Chiloane said.