‘School bullies’ tattoo arm of 8-year-old boy
Sharp, wooden object used to slash into the pupil’s skin
“My boy has been scarred for life.”
These painful words were uttered by an Eastern Cape mother who claims her son, in Grade 2, came home with marks inflicted by a classmate who forcefully tattooed him.
Zenoline van Heerden said her son, 8, was pinned down by two classmates at Cranberry Primary school in Vergenoeg, East London, last Thursday.
While he was captive, his mother claims, a third child wielding a sharp wooden object carved the letters “wuh” – a slang term relating to dominance – into his left forearm.
Van Heerden said the word was commonly used among adults during a fight.
“I think the boys who did this were trying to intimidate my son because he said they’ve bullied him before.
“To me it sounds like it was definitely a way of trying to bully him some more.”The little boy has scratches on his right arm, which she says are from struggling to fend off the bullies.
Provincial education spokesman Malibongwe Mtima said: "[There is] no truth in the allegation. [The] so-called victim paid R5 for his tattoo. He was never forced. [An] argument started when the tattoo was not completed. It is therefore totally untrue that the child was held down – he paid for it.”
Van Heerden disputed this, saying that she had not given her son any money on the day and therefore he could not have paid any money.
Mtima said: “The investigation report will guide us as to what will be a suitable intervention in this matter.
“Normally, when the department hears about something of this nature being done by learners to other learners, we have programmes that are tailor-made to assist victims and perpetrators. These help to empower learners to become more able to provide continuous support to one another.”
Van Heerden accused the school of trying to cover up the attack by saying that the boy asked for the “tattoo”.
She believes this was the school’s way of running away from its responsibility.
“My son was crying when he showed me his arm and told me that another boy at school had done that to him.
“When I asked him how it happened at first he refused to tell me, but after I sat him down he told me the three boys bullied him and held him down when he tried to fight them off,” Van Heerden said.
“Whatever is going on at that school needs to stop now. Tomorrow my child will come home even worse. School is no place for bullies.”
Van Heerden said when she went to the school to report the incident – on Friday and again on Monday – the principal was dismissive, and tried to get a few pupils to say that her son asked for the “tattoo”.
“The boy who did this admitted to us that he was responsible, and that my son had not asked for it, but the principal and teacher tried to spin this around. The principal simply told us that the case was closed, and said he did not care whether I went to the police.”
The mother has since opened a case of negligence with the police. East London police spokeswoman Warrant Officer Hazel Mqala confirmed a case was opened against the school.
“A detective is investigating and is busy with the witness statements.”
Van Heerden said the school had several pupils who were known to bully their schoolmates. The school did nothing to combat the problem, she claimed.
“My son has shown signs of being bullied before but I didn’t think it was this serious. No one is taking responsibility for what happened to him. When we take our children to school we expect them to be protected by their teachers, but my child was failed by his school.”
Cranberry Primary deputy principal Charleton Mackenzie said: “The department is busy with the investigation.
“Everything has been left in their hands. There will be no comment from the school at this moment.”..
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