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Shock as abused pupil hangs self

by Lesotho Times

’Marafaele Mohloboli

IN an incident that has left his parents and Sekamaneng residents in Berea in shock, a teenage learner hung himself after being subjected to a humiliating ordeal by his teachers.

Nineteen-year-old Tšepo Qhobosheane was a pupil at Cenez High School in Sekamaneng. He hanged himself in his bedroom last week on Thursday. This after three female teachers allegedly dragged him to the front of his class and took turns to pull his private parts as punishment for allegedly making advances to one of them.

Fellow learners this week told the Lesotho Times that Tšepo, who harboured dreams of one day becoming a mechanical engineer, fell out early last week with one of his teachers who is on internship at the school.

They said that like a naughty teenage boy, he had proposed love to the teacher in question and even asked for her contact details.

He was then reprimanded over the incident and told to mend his ways. Last Wednesday, Tšepo is said to have gone against the school rules by bringing his mobile phone with him. He was caught using it to take pictures of the same teacher.

He was hauled before a disciplinary committee and corporal punishment was administered before he was told to bring his parents to school.

He however, successfully begged his teachers not to call his parents as he particularly feared his father’s wrath.

The following day, he reported to school as normal as if nothing had happened.

But his ordeal was only about to begin.

The teacher had ganged up with two of her colleagues and together they dragged Tšepo to the front of the class.

The teachers allegedly started insulting him, belittling him and pulling him by his private parts. They asked him degrading and humiliating questions about whether he thought he was now man enough to lust after his teachers.

As he was going through the ordeal, fellow learners begged the teachers to stop, saying Tšepo had already been punished enough after being subjected to a thorough beating the day before.

After his harrowing experience, Tšepo is said to have grabbed his school bag and stormed out of the classroom. He left the school premises and headed straight home.

When he got there, it appears he did not even talk to his mother or anyone else. He just went into his bedroom and used his belt to hang himself from the rafters of the roof.

His father, Telang Qhobosheane, this week said Tšepo’s lifeless body was discovered that same day by his mother.

This publication was able to interview Mr Qhobosheane on Tuesday morning at the Lesotho Funeral Services parlour in Maseru where his son’s corpse had been ferried to ahead for a postmortem.

A tall man, clad in an orange and blue freezer suit, Mr Qhobosheane was gesticulating and speaking at the top of his voice on his mobile phone when the Lesotho Times crew caught up with him at the funeral parlour in downtown Maseru.

He was prancing up and down.

He could be heard saying, “I still can’t make sense of what happened on that day at school that could have led to him ending his life. Nothing makes sense right now. I am still trying to get answers and I want to know what those teachers could have done to my son to drive him to the edge.”

When he had finished his phone conversation, our crew approached him.

Mr Qhobosheane gave a sheepish smile in an attempt to mask his pain. But his shaky voice and his glassy eyes told the story of a man who was suffering intensely.

He spoke of his anger and dissatisfaction with “the manner in which the matter had been handled by the teachers and the school administration.

“I don’t condone what they say my son did but I’m still struggling to understand what they did to him to push him over the edge,” Mr Qhobosheane said.

“My son was naughty, but over the past six months, he was a transformed person and I was very much impressed with him. So was everyone around him.

“He knew that I hated it if he got into trouble at school. He knew that I would never side with him when he was wrong but above all, he knew that I was his father and he could confide in me on any issue. I feel betrayed by his teachers and I feel like I also failed him.

“He was my eldest son and I could count on him for all the family chores when I was away at work in Thaba-Tseka. He was my right hand man and I’m already feeling the void after his untimely death.

“I’m still in a state of shock. Up to now, no one from the school has come to my house to tell me what happened to my son. I’ve had to go to them but I can’t even make sense of the things they told me. It seems hard for them to tell me because it’s all embarrassing stuff.

“A day after my son’s death, two of his friends and classmates came to my house. They did not know that he had died and they had come to check on him. They said they were worried because he had not been in a good state when he left school on the fateful day.  I took them to Tšepo’s room and showed them the belt hanging from the rafters and told them that their friend was no more. They then told me what the teachers had done to my son and how humiliated he had been when he left school.

“I’m told that some people who knew him attempted to find out what was going on but he wouldn’t speak to them.  He was just waving his hand silently as if bidding everyone goodbye. My son was hurt and embarrassed.

“I’m pained and helpless. I have so many questions but my son will never come back to tell me exactly what happened on that day. I want these teachers to pay for what they subjected my son to. I guess now that my son is dead, they are happy. This was uncalled for. This is an unnecessary death. I’m shattered and lost for words,” said Mr Qhobosheane as he walked through the gate into the funeral home.

Less than an hour later, he emerged with a pink plastic bag containing his deceased son’s clothes. This time he did not even attempt to force a smile. He did not want to talk anymore.

“I have seen him and I had to excuse myself,” was all he could say. At that point the tears came gushing down his cheeks.

The school principal, ‘Mamahlape Motanyane, yesterday refused to comment on the tragic incident, saying it had to be dealt with by the police.

Ministry of Education and Training Principal Secretary, Lira Khama, said they had not been aware of the learner’s death after the alleged abuse. Dr Khama said now that it had been brought to their attention they would urgently investigate.

“This is very tragic and sad. We are going to follow up on the matter. As school authorities, we have an obligation to remind teachers of their mandate to nurture pupils and not to harass them.

“Pupils should not feel unsafe at school,” Dr Khama said.

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