Saints and sinners

The principal of St Boniface College has admitted being tough on discipline and says she was shocked by the learners’ decision to stage a protest in front of a school inspector and the media.

30 October 2020 | Education

KENYA KAMBOWE

SHAMBYU

Learners at one of the top schools in the country, St Boniface College in the Kavango East Region, have described the school’s principal, Mary Phillis Yesudasan, as a “dictator” and claim that they live like “prisoners in a concentration camp”.

They allege that Yesudasan is running the school by the “my way or the highway” principle.

Yesudasan admits being strict on discipline and credits that for the school’s excellent academic performance.

The pupils claim that their parents are being bullied as they are willing to accept anything from the school in the name of their children acquiring the best education.

They further allege that they are made to dig holes in the ground as punishment for petty transgressions such as being late for class.

The learners staged a protest yesterday, claiming their constitutional rights are being violated.

‘Parents are afraid’

They claimed that their parents are too afraid to speak up for them and if they do, they are allegedly threatened by Yesudasan to accept the status quo or remove their child from the school.

The demonstration was sparked after Yesudasan on Monday suspended three learners for allegedly walking around in the hostel dormitories in the early morning hours.

They apparently got up early to wish another learner a happy birthday.

A hostel matron who went to confront the learners allegedly assaulted one of them.

After the matron went to Yesudasan to report the matter, the principal suspended the learner.

Two other learners who went to enquire about the matter were also suspended.

Yesudasan yesterday confirmed that she had suspended the learners based on the information given by the matron.

She said she was not aware of any alleged assault before she decided on the suspensions.

She also admitted that there was no investigation and the learner was not given an opportunity to state her version of the events.

“I was not aware about the[alleged] assault, I only learnt about it after I had given the punishment. There I made a mistake,” Yesudasan said.

She indicated that the suspended learners would be allowed to return to the school.

Demands

The aggrieved pupils yesterday read a petition with a list of 28 demands in the school hall, in front of the school management and Shambyu district education inspector Raphael Dikuua.

The petition was read by Orquidia Moises on behalf of the protesters.

“We are like prisoners in a concentration camp,” Moises said.

“The principal is like a dictator. We are always locked inside the dormitories. Suspensions at the school are unrealistic. Teachers are using vulgar languages against learners and we need that to stop. Rules are made on the spot and not discussed prior to them being implemented.

“We want the high school experience as it was promised to us when we enrolled at the best school in the country,” the petition concluded.

The petition was handed over to Dikuua, who then gave it to the school management for their attention.

‘I am not a dictator’

After the learners presented the petition, Yesudasan together with Dikuua responded to questions posed by the media.

When asked about the accusation that she is a dictator, Yesudasan said if the strict rules of the school make her a dictator then she does not care.

“If telling a learner to be in class on time makes me a dictator, or if telling a learner to be quiet makes me a dictator, then it does not matter. We are strict on discipline,” Yesudasan said.

When asked why the children decided to stage a protest, Yesudasan said she was shocked, since there are other avenues open to the learners.

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