Support from across the world poured in last week for a much loved Paarl Boys’ High teacher, after the school was rocked with allegations of corporal punishment against him.
Richard Visagie, veteran teacher and rugby coach at Boishaai, one of the most prestigious boys schools in the country, is being investigated by the Western Cape department of education on allegations of corporal punishment at the school.
The debacle erupted last Thursday after News24 claimed in an article that the school still applies corporal punishment, even though the practice was officially banned in South African schools in 1996.
According to the report, a parent of a learner and five other former scholars who have not been identified, claim that Visagie, the deputy principal and head of discipline at the school, has been applying corporal punishment.
But Chairperson for Boishaai’s governing body, Ritz de la Bat, said that the school has not received any official complaints on this matter yet.
“The department of education handles all complaints with regard to their employees,” he added.
When this news broke, social media was aflame for several days with thousands of learners from Boishaai, current, Old Boys’ and many not even affiliated to the school, joining the outcry about these allegations and in support of Visagie and the school.
By Sunday almost 20 000 posts had been made about this issue since the news of these allegations broke.
In an emotional post on Facebook, one Old Boy, Altuta Zweli Thobela, said that Visagie is “the heart of Paarl Boys High. In my life I can look back and say I am the person that I am because of this man. Mr Visagie, what a legend and a champion.
“Paarl Boys High is very lucky to have you. Ask anyone who went to Paarl Boys High, they’d AGREE with me. I even wanted him to be the principal. Was very angry when I saw this article. This man is Paarl Boys High.”
He however did admit that when he was at school they would get a “pak”.
“He’d always gave you a motivational talk after that pak. And he’d tell you go back and apologize to that teacher especially if it’s a lady. Those paks weren’t even that savage. By the time we got to Grade 9 we weren’t even taking chances.”
The Western Cape Education Department acknowledged that the district office had received complaints about corporal punishment at Boishaai, but in a statement they said that when these allegations were investigated, the parents of the complainants were apparently reluctant for their children to testify.
Department of Education spokesperson Jessica Shelver said that given the number of allegations that have been made and the fact that parents are not allowing their children to testify, the minister has asked the assistance of the SA Human Rights Commission to investigate the matter.
“We now need to allow this process to take it course,” she said.
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