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School CP - March 1997

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The Star, Johannesburg, 14 March 1997

Schoolboy suicidal after caning

NELSPRUIT -- Two Nelspruit teachers who allegedly caned a pupil more than 60 times, telling him he was "too black and too ugly", have been suspended after the 18-year-old left a suicide note and walked into a game reserve, hoping lions would eat him.

"It is against the law for teachers to hit pupils without the express permission of parents, and if they really did tell the child he was the ugliest pupil in the school, and was too black, severe disciplinary action will have to be taken against them," provincial education spokesman Peter Mamenza told African Eye News Service yesterday.

According to a police report, Vusi Dlamini's teacher reprimanded him for talking during lessons and told him in front of the Std 8 class he was the ugliest pupil in the school because of his black skin.

When Vusi protested, the teacher allegedly marched him to the staff-room and took turns, with another teacher, to cane him. Vusi said he lost count of the lashes after being hit 60 times.

The boy left a note to his parents, saying he was going to commit suicide, and disappeared for a week, said Captain Sam Mabunda.

A relative spotted the boy in Swaziland seven days later and returned him to his parents in KaNyamazane township, Nelspruit. Vusi apparently walked all the way through thick bush and one game reserve.

"The insults have given him severe mental problems about his dark complexion," said Mabunda, adding that the department would pay for any necessary psychological treatment.

The teachers, whom he did not name, would be paid their full salaries while their conduct was investigated, he said.

Mabunda confirmed that angry residents marched on the school on Sunday to demand that the teachers be arrested. Police say they cannot investigate unless assault charges are laid by the victim or his family. -- Sapa.

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