MASERU — At least 20 children were sodomised at a school in Ha-Abia in a case that has sparked outrage within the community.
But in an interview with the Lesotho Times the school principal sought to downplay the sodomy ring describing the episode as “children’s play”.
The principal is now facing an investigation and possible disciplinary action, according to Education Minister ‘Mamphono Khaketla
The Lesotho Times this week uncovered how a 14-year-old ring-leader recruited other boys aged between 10 and 12 for sodomy sessions under the noses of teachers and other authorities at one of the primary schools in Ha-Abia.
The name of the school and principal cannot be published to protect the identity affected children.
When a mentally challenged victim spilled the beans after weeks of being sodomised, school authorities still kept the matter away from the education ministry, a decision that has drawn the ire of Khaketla.
Confronted by the Lesotho Times over the incidents, which have angered community members around the Ha-Abia area, the school principal said the matter was “not serious” because it was “children’s play”.
“I did not report the matter to the education authorities so I cannot talk to the media. The matter involves Standard Two students (aged between seven and eight) and for that reason it is not a serious issue that could be of public interest,” said the principal.
“I don’t think it would be of public interest for the issue to be published; besides I need to get authority from the Ministry of Education,” she said.
Investigations by the Lesotho Times established that the sodomy happened in classrooms and school toilets during break time.
At times, this happened when the boys took livestock for grazing after school.
Sources said at least 20 boys interviewed by teachers confirmed being part of the ring, although more could have been involved.
Teachers only found out about the matter after one victim, who is mentally challenged, innocently narrated the sodomy episodes to teachers.
Parents of the victims, some of whom spoke to a Lesotho Times news crew on Tuesday, were called to the school to be informed about the matter.
The shocked parents said they subsequently took their children for HIV and Aids testing.
A social worker from Baylor College of Medicine, a clinic for HIV-infected children, held counselling sessions with the affected boys.
“I was shocked when the principal told me that my boy had been raped. I never thought that anything like that could happen. And the boy who raped my grandson was the last person I ever suspected could harm him,” said a woman whose son attends the school.
The principal told students to stop such practices immediately and reported the matter to Lithoteng police but fell short of informing her superiors.
Khaketla said the principal blundered by failing to report the matter to her ministry, adding investigations would commence.
“She had no right to keep the matter to herself regardless of the fact that it involved young school boys,” Khaketla said.
“It is a mistake because sodomy is a criminal offence and it should have been reported to the ministry as it is against the law,” she said.
Police say they suspect the ring leader had been involved in the practice before joining the school.
“The suspect is a young boy who came from the rural areas. It is suspected he had been practising it where he was staying as it is a norm for young boys who are herding live-stock to do it,” said police senior inspector Rethabile Sehloho.