Initiation sparks fight among girls

Some pupils from Bethel High School, about 20km from Coligny, left for their homes after they were involved in clashes last week. / Tiro Ramatlhatse
Some pupils from Bethel High School, about 20km from Coligny, left for their homes after they were involved in clashes last week. / Tiro Ramatlhatse

A pupils' fight at a North West girls boarding school over an initiation ritual turned ugly when armed security guards allegedly used pepper spray and fired rubber bullets to stop the violence.

Several pupils were injured while others collapsed during the fight.

The drama at Bethel High School near Coligny last week led to 25 matric pupils being evicted from hostels and locked out of the boarding school's premises at night.

The trouble apparently started when a Grade 8 pupil refused to obey the rules of an initiation ritual. The pupil reportedly refused to go on stage to hero worship all the matric pupils.

This, according to the matrics, is their way of showing Grade 8 pupils "their place". The Grade 8s are the school's first year group.

But this tradition turned nasty last Sunday when a Grade 8 pupil refused to obey the rules given to her by the Grade 12s.

The two groups, Grade 12s and 8s, clashed and armed guards were called in to bring order at the school.

"It was bad, we ran around the corridors screaming, they used pepper spray and some of the pupils collapsed," an evicted matric pupils told Sowetan.

The Grade 12s were apparently locked in a corridor, separated from the rest of the pupils.

"We banged the door and asked the house mother to help us but she did not show any interest," said a Grade 12 pupil.

The girls were let out after a parent arrived and demanded to take his injured daughter out of the school.

His daughter had sent him a WhatsApp picture showing her injury - allegedly from a rubber bullet.

The parent, Itsaneng Tshelwane, said: "I had to drive from Ganyesa to the school that night; it was painful and I kept on praying to God to save my daughter."

He has opened a case of assault with the police following his daughter's injury.

Another parent, Peter Phala, said the school management failed to deal with the situation in a responsible manner.

Parent Thembi Ndlovu said they were notified late about the brawl. "They kept quiet with such a big thing; our children were injured but they did not tell us on time," she said.

North West department of education spokesman Elias Malindi said the school called the riot unit to control the situation.

"There was no firing of teargas... we have an unarmed security company," he said.

Asked how the pupils got injured, Malindi said it was because they were breaking windows and damaging buildings.

He said the pupils threatened to assault and burn the house of the school principal because he reprimanded them for ill-discipline and condemned bullying.

"We condemn any initiation... no learner is allowed to bully another learner."

Malindi also denied the pupils were locked out. "The school identified the perpetrators who were bullying the Grade 8 and 9 learners and decided to separate those from the junior ones by organising them an alternative accommodation at Coligny," he said.

He said trauma counselling would be organised for all affected pupils.

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