With the incident of alleged child abuse/harmful discipline of a student of the Benoni Tamil School, we reached out to Shabnam Palesa Mohamed for her professional opinion on the incident where the disciplining of a student at the school was defined as NOT child abuse.
Editor’s Note: Taking into account the dire backgrounds some of the children are coming from – as well as public shaming like in this incident – a child has the potential of being ostracised that of which could lead to the child inflicting harm on his/her self, as this child has been ‘disciplined’ and not abused according to the organisation officials.
In my opinion, the psychology of the Indian community through the years on the basis of close knit ties and discreet handling of shameful events like this lead to further smokescreens. From a standpoint of media professionals and advocates in the industry, we stand by the resolve that this is not a matter that should be kept silent.
The Tamil Eisteddfod Movement has been dogged by various allegations, highlighted to our news desk, that are yet to be placed on record by some members of the public of constant abuse (be it physical and/or verbal) by teachers & parents to ensure utmost performance levels from these children in this annual musical Tamil event. Quality of the event is regarded over the well being of the children at some instances.
Shabnam Palesa Mohamed’s Opinion: As a survivor of abuse, I feel the emotions of abused children on a very personal level. One of the core focus areas of Stand UP! Foundation is the rights of children according to the much flaunted Geneva Convention, the South African Bill of Rights and the Children’s Act Number 38 of 2005.
These pieces of paper however are nowhere near achieving dignity, safety, and wellbeing for children locally and globally. Instead, they give us a false sense of security that someone somewhere is protecting and empowering children. But at what cost to society?
In 2012, our legal division was closely involved in a case that made headlines when 300 pupils of Risecliff Secondary in Chatsworth Durban signed a petition crying out for verbal and physical abuse as well as acts of favouritism, nepotism and intimidation to stop.
Some of these pupils attended Stand UP’s launch in 2011 where it took a massive amount of courage and public motivation for them to speak out. When trying to work with the school did not help, our media division went to the school and filmed a hard-hitting documentary called Risecliff Rising. The visual content documents not only the horrific experiences of the learners and their parents, but also the stonewall of complete denial and the bullying tactics of some teachers and the principal.
At one point I was threatened with being physically removed after which SAPS was called in to diffuse the situation and make sure we did not return. Further investigations revealed a connection between local druglords and the school’s administration, none of which was covered by mainstream media. Instead a story was published about the principal applying for a peace order against me. This is how the system operates. There is collusion and corruption everywhere.
The Benoni case, equally horrifying, is a symptom of an exponential pandemic in every community. Most people only know about reported cases. Like the case of Baby Jamie Faith Naidoo, Shahil Sewpujun, Cuburne van Wyk and Baby Samantha. We get upset and angry for a while, then we forget and move on.
What about those children who wish they were dead because of abuse? What about pupils being pressured for results to the point where they cannot cope with the anxiety and depression and they commit suicide? Are we not accomplices through silence?
Based on our experience and ongoing children’s cases, we have no doubt that a clique of elite and their puppets are plotting together to ensure that this case and this story are gone, forgotten, buried. It is up to the learners, their parents and child rights advocates from every walk of life to make sure they do not succeed in damaging this brave child for life. Instead of ostracizing her, we should be lauding her as an example of courage ahead of Youth Day June 16th. If we have any conscience, we should be protesting with this child at the school on that day. I would.
ABOUT: Shabnam Palesa Mohamed is a social justice activist, journalist, attorney and public speaker. An open survivor of abuse, she co-launched Stand UP! Foundation in 2011. Focused on activism empowerment strategies, Palesa as she is known, works with a vibrant collective of interconnected local and global causes including the survival and wellbeing of our homeless and traders; anti child abuse; rape corruption cases; and indigenous movements such as Free Palestine. Her favourite activities include on the ground and online protests, pissing off privilege, politicians and police, and resistance writing. She is also a member of the local and global Occupy and Anonymous movements.
- Twitter: @ShabnamPalesaMo
- Facebook Pages: Stand UP! Foundation / Daddy Loves You / Shabnam Palesa Mohamed