Female learners at the Jan Mohr hostel were panic- stricken last week when they were allegedly barred from taking showers by the supervisor in charge.
The rule was enforced by members of the Learners’ Representative Council (LRC), who are said to have their own private bathroom.
Talking to The Villager newspaper on condition of anonymity last Tuesday out of fear of being victimised, the mostly grade 11 learners said female members of the LRC told them that they could no longer use the showers because they were wasting water.
The learners also alleged that their counterparts in lower grades, from grades 8 to 10, had already been barred from using the showers since the first term, and have been using basins since then.
“The LRC locked the showers, and told us we can no longer use them because we don’t know how to use them. They said we can only use them on weekends, but also during certain hours,” one of the learners lamented.
They added that they were instructed to shower using basins henceforth, and the only time they were allowed to take showers would be on weekends.
Alarmed by what they considered an unhygienic punishment, the learners began alerting their parents, who then called the superintendent to resolve the matter.
“She (the supervisor) came back to us and said she had changed the punishment and we could take showers, but only between 17h30 and 18h30 when we were done at the dining hall.
She said we were just as stupid as our parents who were calling her, and she even said they were poephols. At first we though she meant to say people, but she kept repeating poephol, which upset some learners,” another student said. Poephol is an Afrikaans slang term for asshole.
The superintendent of the hostel, Vanessa Beukes, along with the supervisor known only as Miss Du Plessis (who refused to give her first name) vehemently denied the allegations.
Speaking on behalf of her team, Beukes said the hostel has approximately 112 learners. However, they only have 13 showers.
She added that the hostel also has bath tubs, and they urge some of the learners to use them as they only have an hour to get ready for school, but they refuse, which means they are late for school.
The superintendent insisted that the only thing they tell learners is that if they are not ready for school at 06h50, they will have to go to school without having showered. She further noted that only the head girl and her deputy have their own shower, but did not explain why that is the case.
A well-placed source within the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture advised that in cases such as these, where there are not enough facilities in a hostel, the hostel administration should explore alternatives to encourage the learners to use the facilities wisely.
“The superintendent should either motivate learners to use the bathtubs, or they should wake them up an hour earlier so that they can all make use of the shower. Every hostel has a ratio for how many learners can use a single facility, so they should find inventive ways to make sure each learner is bathed,” the source said.
The Villager Newspaper approached the school principal so he could shed more light on the matter. However, a school official said he was not in the office and that it was a hostel matter, so it had to be resolved by the hostel superintendent.
Alfred Ilukena, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education said he could not comment on the issue because he has been out of office in the regions, and was not notified of the case.
He added that the school was the best authority to contact to shed light on the matter as they are directly involved.