The army have been called in to help stamp out the anarchy that has long run rife at Goodhope Senior Secondary School.
For the last three weeks lessons have been cancelled and the boarding school’s unruly students forced, without their parents consent, to take part in a gruelling BDF-run boot camp.
According to pupils, who did not want to be named for fear of victimisation, the intense camp includes being woken up at 3am in the morning for a ‘military style’ jog.
Other exercises include being made to crawl through mud, run with tires around their necks and complete countless squats.
“It is like we are in a Defence Force training institution. We are intimidated by these soldiers and school is no longer a conducive learning environment. We wrote a petition and are still mobilising others to sign it,” an unhappy student revealed, claiming that the exercises amounted to ‘torture’.
Speaking to The Voice, an aggrieved guardian, Thato Moroka claimed that her younger sister, Kutlo Moroka was struggling to walk after participating in the boot camp.
According to Thato, due to health reasons Kutlo, who is a Form Five student, is not supposed to take part in any strenuous physical training but soldiers still forced her ‘to do the tough exercises’.
“I am not saying she should not be disciplined but her health comes first. She said she told the soldiers her condition and even said she has a medical report to prove it but they never listened.
“What if she becomes permanently crippled? Who will take responsibility for that?” demanded Thato, who is Kutlo’s guardian after their parents passed away.
She now intends to lodge a formal complaint with the school’s management.
In recent years, a widespread culture of students dealing and using drugs, abusing alcohol and engaging in sexual activity has emerged at the troubled institution.
As a result, the school’s academic performance has deteriorated drastically, with Goodhope recording a pass rate of 11.19% last year – the lowest in the country.
It is a situation that Ministry of Basic Education Director for the South Region, Acro Maseko, insisted required drastic measures.
He stressed that teachers and school management had tried their best but there was still no sign of improvement.
“We are trying to put things into order. Because of indiscipline in that school we decided to make boot camp continuous, unlike in the past when it was done during schools break.
“Parents give their children a lot of money, which results in alcohol consumption and drug abuse. This programme is meant to instill discipline,” explained Maseko.
When asked about Thato’s grievances, the Director replied, “Those who are sick will be exempted from hard exercises.”
When contacted for a comment, Lieutenant Colonel, Fikani Machola from BDF Protocol and Public Affairs, pointed out that the boot camps were common practice in senior schools around the country.
He said they teach students ‘life skills and discipline’.
As for the incident at Goodhope, the army man said, “We made an enquiry with the school authorities regarding the allegations and they assured us that they have been no reports of torture and punishment of any student during the boot camp or at any time by any member of the BDF.
“We have also enquired from our members who participated in the said Boot Camp and they have equally indicated that no such incidents occurred.”
Normal lessons resumed at Goodhope last Monday, with the boot camp continuing at weekends – it remains to be seen whether they will make a difference.