Gareth Wilson email@example.com
AN angry Port Elizabeth father has turned to the police and the Education Department after learning that closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras had been installed in the toilet at Dr Viljoen Primary School in Sydenham.
The father, who did not want to be named for fear his child would be victimised, said he believed the cameras were a gross violation of the children’s privacy.
The cameras – which the principal Solly Gouws allegedly told a parent were fake – were placed in both the boys’ and girls’ washrooms earlier this year.
According to the father, Gouws said the cameras had been installed to stop children from damaging school property.
Yesterday the man reported the cameras to the education department, requesting immediate action as it was an infringement of the children’s rights.
Gouws initially denied that there were any cameras in the toilets before claiming that they were “dummy cameras” and “not in the toilet but the section where the students wash their hands”.
He refused to comment further.
He also denied The Herald entry into the school after a request to be shown the cameras.
The education department also remained tight-lipped. Education development officer Walter Ah Shene said: “I have nothing to say until I have submitted a report to the deputy director.”
The lack of interest from the education department saw the parent consulting the police yesterday.
Concerned roleplayers will meet police today to discuss the merits of a criminal investigation.
A parent, who asked to remain anonymous, said that a meeting was held with Gouws last week to address the issue after pleas to have the cameras removed failed.
“I raised my concern regarding the installation of CCTV cameras in the boys’ and girls’ toilets as they have a clear view of the basins, urinal and changing area,” the parent said.
“[Gouws] then said they were dummy cameras and were placed there due to the children throwing toilet paper against the ceiling. He did not prove they were fake but said that since the installation [of the cameras] it had stopped.”
The parent highlighted concerns over the pupils’ privacy, saying they feared they were being watched while in the toilets.
“This perception could lead to abnormalities such as urinary tract infection and constipation through fear of going to the toilet. Other parents are also worried about this, but they are too scared to come forward,” the parent said.
“I do not know whether these cameras are real and now I have my child worrying about being watched in the toilets.
“They claim these are dummy cameras, but they can’t or won’t show proof of this.
“It is amazing. The principal blatantly breaks the law and the education department just accepts it.”
Other parents said yesterday they were unaware of the situation.
“We know nothing about cameras in the toilets. We are only allowed into the school if we have an appointment,” a parent said.
Police spokesman Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg said a case of crimen injuria could be opened by concerned parents if the school failed to address the issue.
“A criminal case regarding CCTV cameras in bathrooms can be opened. Detectives would have to investigate whether the cameras are real.
“They will also have to establish the purpose of putting the cameras in the bathrooms,” she said.
“Either way, CCTV cameras may not be installed in washrooms as it constitutes an invasion of privacy.”
Education spokesman Loyiso Pulumani failed to respond to numerous messages and queries relating to the cameras.