Zimbabwean authorities are investigating allegations of child abuses at the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe-run Waddilove Primary School in Marondera (72 km east of Harare).

A pupil was sexually assaulted on July 18 this year. A 13-year-old boy was convicted of sodomy by a Marondera magistrate earlier this month. The case follows reports and complaints from concerned parents who have since started withdrawing their children from the school. The juvenile was sentenced to three strokes of the cane to be administered by a designated offi­cer.

Several parents recently signed a petition sent to Mashonaland East provincial education director Sylvester Matshaka. The petition was also copied to Public Ser­vice Commission provincial head Farai Chimombe. The parents accused school authorities, including the boarding master, of trying to hide the report that led to the boy’s arrest.

The boarding master was also accused of clashing with teachers who had reported the sodomy case. He accused them of fabricating the case to tarnish his image. The headmaster allegedly allowed the con­victed juvenile back to school when the case was still in the courts.

The case was, however, unearthed during a Parents Teachers’ Association meeting on October 3 this year.

Provincial education director Matshaka recently confirmed receiving such reports. He said he had since met Rev Mafala Masuku, the church’s education secretary. “I can confirm that we received the reports, but we are officially dealing with the sodomy case only.” 

Matshaka said he had since deployed officials to the school, including those from the Schools Psychological Support Unit. They would look at the most appropriate action to be taken while providing counselling for the affected pupils.

Rev Masuku said the church’s disciplinary committee would make a deter­mination con­sidering the gravity of any misdemeanour by the school staff.

In a letter to Masuku, a parent accused the boarding master of dis­missing complaints by the abused boy. He accused the boarding master of dis­regarding a directive to transfer the abused child to another dormitory. “Cases of child abuse [are] still going on at Waddilove Primary and teachers are instructed to close mouth on my child’s case.”

The father accused the headmaster of failing to arrange a meeting between the affected par­ties, including the convicted boy’s parents. “The headmaster allowed the offender back at the school without coun­selling and rehabilitation. My child runs away if he sees the offender and is not walking properly.”

Other allegations that have been brought to provincial education director Matshaka’s attention include the burning of children’s property at the girls’ dormitory on September 19. The case was reported to the police but parents were not informed about the allegations. The parents also allege that a school security guard beat up pupils in October while he was under the influence of alcohol.

Parents and guardians have since started transferring their children from the school.