By: Annakleta Haikera
Pauline Wakudumo, a former student from Noordgrens Secondary School in the Kavango East region, says a popular teacher and sports coach, Henk Bronner, raped her when she was only 13 years old.
According to Wakudumo, Bronner, who still coaches the girls’ volleyball and athletics teams at Noordgrens Secondary School, would touch underage girls at the school inappropriately.
She says, however, he took a keen interest in her, which allegedly ended up in him raping her on the school premises nearly 21 years ago.
“When I was 13, I was raped and molested until I reached 16. The person that did this to me was my coach. He used to be my coach in athletics for 100, 200 and 400 meters, but when all this ended, he started with volleyball. He is still coaching volleyball at Noordgrens as we speak. I am not sure how old he is now or how old he was back then. I was only in Grade 4 when he started raping me,” she told The Villager.
She said the ordeal led her to the brink of suicide. Wakudumo left Namibia for Canada and only returned four years ago in 2018. Now 33, she became concerned after witnessing that he was still coaching and in contact with underage girls.
She further said that she never told anyone when he allegedly raped her when she was 13 as he convinced her that she would get in trouble if anyone found out.
“I am starting to deal with the fact that it happened to me, much of it I know, and maybe it will be difficult to tell. So, there would be some blank areas in this story. I wish I could have just told my teachers that time when everything was still new and happening, but I need justice for my story. That’s why I am telling it now. It took me longer to tell my rape story, but I think this is the right time.”
She narrates that, during her school years at Noordgrens Secondary School, Bronner would call her ‘Perkie’ and gave every girl on the volleyball a sexy nickname.
“I always thought it was normal to be physical because, in sports, people touch too much. But in his case, he would demonstrate every move on my body, and since he was doing it in front of everyone, I thought it was okay. This did not stop just at the playground. He would take me forcefully to the toilet, storeroom and even at the playground, forcefully put himself over me and penetrate through my pants. There was always a pain, but he would tell me I am the one who is at fault, and I would get in trouble if I tell anyone.”
She said she first spoke of the incident in 2018 when she returned from Canada, firstly to her parents.
She also opened up to a pastor who advised her to go and open a case against her former coach.
“My case was registered, and I still have the case number. All I want is to see him removed from the school and go to jail. He raped me, and who knows, he might still be doing it to some other innocent children at the school.”
Officials at the ministry of gender confirmed that a case had been opened. However, not much had been done.
When approached for comment, Bronner denied the allegations lodged against him by his former student.
“Unfortunately, it is so sad that everybody thinks I am a rapist because of accusations posted about me on social media. But to be honest with you, I didn’t do any of those things she said I have done to her. I am aware of the case, and it is now with the Police. Let them investigate. I need to play my cards right. I don’t want to stoop as low as she did by posting the picture she took from my profile on social media. My legal team advised me not to follow the mistake she made by going on social media,” Bronner told The Villager.
He further said that the photos of him bare-chested with his students that have been circulated on social media had been taken out of context.
A former teacher who chose to remain anonymous said that Bronner did have a close relationship with Wakudumo however the staff was not aware if it was also a sexual relationship or if the coach was raping her.
“We, however, suspected that something was going on between the two. He had always protected her, and she was never wrong in the eyes of other learners. He used to call many girls sexy names and even some female teachers at the school too.”
“He inappropriately touching learners. He also gave them a lot of gifts, such as chocolate and money. We tried our best as teachers to call these learners to hear from them why they liked being touched by this specific male teacher, but no one would answer our questions.”
The Director of Education for the Kavango East, Fanuel Kapapero, confirmed that he was aware of the case and had called in the school’s principal, Elci Bekkerfor an explanation.
“Pauline told me after she returned from Canada, and I immediately asked the school principal to remove Henk as a coach for the investigation.
“My biggest concern is why did the parents not speak to us about this if they knew this was happening to their daughter? One parent also approached me and informed me that her child complained about the volleyball coach, with his inappropriate behaviour of touching girls during practice.”
Meanwhile, the school principal, Elci Bekker, confirmed to have heard people talking about the coach touching small girls or hugging them inappropriately, but she said she had never seen it herself.
“Yes, I warned him not to participate in such activities because he is a great geography teacher. I care a lot about the academic performance at the school and if he had been having relationships with these small girls that I am truly not aware of. God must forgive me, but I did not know Pauline very well.”