LERIBE – The Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) has launched investigations into an alleged case of child abuse at Sisters of the Mount Royal Pre-School a Catholic Church-owned school in Hlotse, Leribe. The November 8 incident gripped national and child-rights watchers’ interest when it was distributed on social media. LMPS acting Public Relations Officer, ’Mareabetsoe Mofoka, has confirmed that the police have received a complaint from the child’s parents leveled against the teacher responsible and the school.
“Investigations are underway as we failed to wrap up the case because the individual who witnessed the whole scene was out on a workshop and could not be reached,” Mofoka explained. ’Matlhonolofatso Ramabolu, a National Teacher Trainer (NTT) in Leribe, together with a delegation from the World Food Programme witnessed what she says is outright child abuse and violence against a minor at the school administered by Sisters of Mount Royal. The NTT official in Leribe, together with the WFP delegation from Maseru, were on a school monitoring routine when they witnessed a minor child tied with a rope while hanging upside down from a wooden cot bed with her head to the ground in one of the school rooms.
A pre-school teacher around at that time said this was disciplinary action against the child who had been noisy and causing disturbances. Speaking to Public Eye, Ramabolu said this was a very disturbing scene to witness, where the victimisation of children in the learning facility seemed like a regular act, which was worrying especially for a place entrusted with the lives of minor children by parents and guardians.
Ramabolu said from the answers she received from the teacher, ’Maisaka Mosoeu, it appeared to be a regular punishment imposed by the teachers judging by the casual manner in which she took and explained the situation. “As a National Teacher Trainer I was there with the WFP delegation from Maseru, and we found this young girl hanging with her head down and her left leg tied to the bed. The teacher explained to me that the kid is naughty and is never calm in the environment of other kids.
“I even thought the child had autism or was somehow disabled. When I saw the teacher’s manners and handling of my shocked enquiries it was evident that such cases were common in the school for the children and their caretakers,” Ramabolu disclosed.
She further went on to say that the teacher did not untie the child until she was done with her task with the WFP people and they asked to see the pre-school principal. “It was only when the teacher had returned from fetching the sister in charge that she stood to help the child,” she continued.
The teacher then told me the child “was a nuisance and disturbing others in the class, and we are sometimes unable to stomach this behaviour because we are busy with other kids changing nappies,” she added. “It was hurting because the teacher was not sorry until I told her what they are doing was child abuse and it is against the law, let alone them being guardians,” she said.
On the other hand, the father of the victim says he is dissatisfied with the treatment they received from both the police and the school when putting forward their complaint. We were belittled, he said. “This incident happened on Monday, November 8 and it came to our attention on Tuesday, and the principal denied the whole thing when we approached them.
“At 1700hrs in the evening they called our family saying they request a meeting with my wife, but not in my presence. I came to the meeting anyway, and they played games when we requested to see the picture of what happened until… I saw the picture of my child fastened to the wooden bed circulating on social media.
“When we got to the police station we were told we will be called later because some senior police officer was not around to give us a case number, and they only took statements from both sides,” he said. The father of the victim continued that they left the police station without a case number and no hope that the matter would be taken to court.
“They don’t know what my stand is in this situation. I am hurting because of the manner the police treated us, I wanted to sue the school for abuse and attempted murder yet I was denied my right.”
The Catholic Schools Secretariat office has claimed knowledge of such an incident but said action will be taken against the perpetrator if and when the individual is proven guilty. “We have not received any complaint whatsoever against any of our teachers in the last 30 days, but I can promise that Catholic institutions do not accept any form of human abuse. However, action will be taken against anyone involved if that is the case,” Molise Lekunutu, an official at the secretariat said. Sisters of the Mount Royal Pre-School is a Roman Catholic Pre-school situated in Hlotse, Leribe. The school overall enrolment for the year 2020 was about 190 children comprising 96 boys and 113 girls all looked after by only two teachers.