Editorial | Restoring boy’s dignity is vital

Pupil forced to sit drenched in his own urine

On Friday, The Herald told the heart-wrenching story of a 12-year-old Port Elizabeth boy who recently suffered humiliation when he accidentally wet his pants in class last week.

According to his mother, the Lorraine Primary pupil was refused permission to go to the bathroom at least three times when he asked his teacher.

He was then allegedly forced to sit through the remainder of the class drenched in his urine in full view of other pupils.

Since the incident, the boy has been too traumatised to go to school, fearing that he would be ridiculed.

His mother spoke out this week, saying not only had the school failed to act against the teacher, it had not shown sufficient care for the distress suffered by her son.

The matter is under investigation by the education department.

Only at the conclusion of that process shall we, hopefully, understand the full picture of what happened on that day.

What we know, however, is that this child went through a highly traumatic experience and at a very impressionable age of his life.

The boy’s emotional well-being should therefore be the priority, both for his family, the school and the department.

Active steps must be taken by all adults involved to protect him from further victimisation, to restore his personal dignity and to repair what may be a betrayal of confidence in figures of authority.

Equally important is that if the teacher is found to have abused his power or acted in any careless or unjust manner, he should face the full consequences for those actions.

Irrespective of what happened on the day, this incident should serve as a reminder to all that at the centre of any institutional culture, must always be reverence for the principle of human dignity.