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A Grade 7 pupil was allegedly assaulted and raped at knifepoint after her school in Kwazulu-Natal turned her away because she didn't have a mask. Police say they have arrested a 17-year-old suspect.

The father of a 12-year-old girl who was sent home from school because she didn't have a mask with her is furious. According to IOL, the father said, “I want to know why my child was sent back home alone. At that time, there were no other children on the road, which is known to be dangerous.

“The principal had not arrived at school at that time, so I want to know who made my child walk 7km just to fetch her mask. Someone at the school must take responsibility for this. Was it a teacher or the security guard who turned her away?”

According to the father, his daughter was halfway home when she realised the alleged suspect was following her. He then grabbed her by the tie and dragged her into a forested area off the road. The alleged suspect then pulled out a knife and raped the girl, threatening to kill her if she told anyone.

Apparently, two boys passing nearby spotted her shoes and went to investigate. The girl's father went on to say, "My child came out of the forest crying. She was afraid to say she had been raped because the suspect had threatened to kill her. He ran through another exit in the forest, but these boys spotted him and gave chase. Unfortunately, he disappeared among grazing cattle. But, he had discarded the jacket he was wearing, and the boys found it.”

After being informed of the attack, the father alerted the traditional leaders. The suspect was identified by his jacket. Police spokesperson, Colonel Thembeka Mbele said that a 17-year-old suspect was arrested wearing the same clothes he had on during the attack. He is in custody at the Donnybrook SAPS in Bulwer.

According to KZN Education MEC, Kwazi Mshengu, “We are giving the pupil socio-psychological support. We condemn this barbaric and painful act. We are working with the police to ensure swift justice.” He went on to say that, for the safety of the children, parents must ensure that all children must wear a mask from the moment they left home, "not only to comply with Covid-19 regulations at school."

“It is shocking and disgusting that the school allowed a little girl to walk home by herself. The government told us that schools would be equipped with PPE, so why did this child have to be sent home to fetch a mask? Turning away a young girl child for not having a mask and allowing her to return home unsupervised was nothing short of criminal,” said Jackie Branfield of the Bobby Bair Foundation.

Branfield continued, “Apart from the trauma, she not only runs the risk of testing positive for HIV but also now Covid-19. We say a child of Africa is a child of mine, yet our community cannot think to protect our children.”

Thirona Moodley of teacher union, Naptosa, said, “The pupil paid the price for not wearing a mask! Who decided to turn the pupil away? Did the person know of the possible danger the pupil would be in?

“When will common sense prevail over policy? Pupils are going to lose their masks or arrive without masks, they are adjusting to the new rules and protocols, surely schools must be mindful of this and have contingency plans in place. Do we turn away every pupil who arrives without a mask?

“The Department of Education must put practical steps in place for principals to follow. This form of gender-based violence against our children must be strongly condemned and all must be done to bring the perpetrators to book.”

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