29 August 2012

South Africa: Primary School Pupils March to Keep Rape Accused Behind Bars

Classes at Bardale Primary school were put on hold for three hours as pupils marched to the Blue Downs Magistrate's Court to demand the school's caretaker, accused of raping one of the school's pupil's, be kept in custody.

The 45-year-old caretaker is accused of raping a nine-year-old pupil on Friday last week and pupils believed he was to appear for a bail hearing yesterday.

According to the child's parents the attack occurred twice before the girl spoke up.

A group of about 50 pupils sang songs insulting the caretaker as they marched to the court.

However, when they got to the courts they discovered he appeared in court on Monday and was not granted bail.

The allegations against the caretaker have divided the Bardale community, with some parents and teachers saying the caretaker is wrongly accused.

"He's innocent, I know. This is a holy and quiet man we're talking about. I think this child is being used by other people who are jealous of him," said one parent interviewed in front of the school gate.

The mother of the girl who was raped said she noticed "something wrong" with her daughter about a month ago.

"First she refused to go school and then later I saw she was struggling to walk. I asked her what was wrong she said she had a pimple in her vagina."

But her mother said when she examined her she suspected she had been raped.

Together with neighbours, they took her to the Mfuleni police station and to a doctor who confirmed she had been raped.

The girl did not name the rapist until it happened a second time on Friday last week.

She said on that day her daughter returned late from school and complained of stomach cramps.

"She went straight to bed and covered herself. She did not want to talk to anyone. My other daughter told her about children's rights and that's when she told us that the caretaker had raped her in his house after school," said her mother.

"My daughter is still not eating. She's vomiting all the time. She always sleeps. I have no choice to take her out of this school because teachers do not believe her."

According to parents who confronted the school principal about the matter yesterday morning, she said it was not the first time a pupil at the school had been raped. The parents said the principal told them five other children had been raped at the school over time.

However, the principal refused to talk to the media.

Western Cape Education Department spokesperson Paddy Attwell said the department still needed to investigate the matter.

The rape accused is due to appear again in court on September 11.

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