Africa & World

Overweight boy transfers school after teacher calls him elephant

Story Highlights
  • Teacher says sorry after her remark led to bullying, but boy’s father won’t accept her apology

JOHANNESBURG. — The parents of an overweight boy have removed him from school after a teacher allegedly called him an elephant.

The mother of the 10-year-old, who used to attend Panorama Primary School in Parow in the Western Cape, said that after a teacher uttered the words, “If you all want to behave like monkeys” to a group of boys playing in the corridor, she looked directly at her son and said, “and elephants, then you all belong in the zoo”.

But the principal and the teacher told the parents in two separate e-mails that the remarks were not directed specifically at their son, who was in grade four, but at the whole group of boys.

The e-mail said the teacher reprimanded all the boys in the group “unfortunately making use of the comparison to monkeys and elephants that belong in a zoo”.

“My words were that they should not go on like monkeys at school because monkeys belong in a zoo. I did not say this to the boy directly as I was talking to the boys as a collective. I apologise for my words used in this manner.”

The incident took place on May 4, and the parents subsequently lodged a complaint with the school on May 7, and with the provincial education department on May 13.

The boy’s mother said that after the teacher insulted her son, he went to his desk and started crying.

“He then refused to play rugby and his marks dropped in class. The break times became unbearable as he was now teased elephant.”

He then refused to play rugby and his marks dropped in class. The break times became unbearable as he was now teased elephant.

Boy’s mother

Said the mother: “Our son is certainly not an angel. He is loud, talkative, does not always listen and has a bit of a temper. He is a typical 10-year-old boy.”

She said that the parents of the children who bullied her son should be made aware of the bullying.

“We insist that the boys go for counselling. ”

The boy’s father said they were forced to move their son to a private school because he was terrified of returning to his old school.

“It was so bad that I was shouting at him to go to school. He was so afraid he soiled his pants before school.”

Western Cape education department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the matter was discussed with the teacher’s supervisor and “noted in her file”.

“The teacher has shown remorse and apologised.”

She confirmed that the teacher had reportedly reprimanded a group of boys who made a noise while running up the staircase.

“She addressed them as a group and unfortunately made a comparison to monkeys and elephants that belong in a zoo. A witness has confirmed this account. It was not aimed at one child.”

She said that the teacher wrote to the parents apologising for her reference to the zoo animals.

“She apologised for her remarks and hoped that they could move forward in a peaceful manner. She also indicated that she would apologise to their son and would explain that it was not aimed at him, but the entire class.”

Hammond said the father indicated that he would not accept the teacher’s apology, and that she must have no communication with their son.

“He later decided to deregister his child from the school.”

She said that the department was informed of the matter from the start and had a meeting with the principal while the process was going on. ​■

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