Media frenzy over paralyzed student

Siphamandla Choma with his uncle, Johannes Choma.

Siphamandla Choma made headline news all over the country following allegations that he was assaulted by a school prinicpal after being accused of stealing R150. The incident happened around August 2016 and was reported only a couple of months later.

Another student, who was the co-accused in the theft of R150, was also allegedly assaulted but did not sustain any injuries.

The story first broke on Sunday when it was reported on SABC news, who stated that the principal of Manyano Primary School has been suspended.

Siphamandla said that he has been inundated with media attention since Monday, and has received visit from journalists and camera crews from all over the country.

“I don’t mind the attention, I just want to get my story out so that I can get help and go back to school again,” he said.

The Choma family live in a small house in Avalon, and before the news broke Siphamandla had to take care of himself and had to wear nappies during the day. He is one of seven children. But since Monday, neighbours have come forward and are assisting in taking care of him. His mother, Christina, is at work during the day.

The caretakers told the Middelburg Observer that on Wednesday, following a small protest outside court for the coffin case, members of the ANC, Women’s League and even the ward councillor came to Avalon to visit him and take photos with him. “Lots of people have pledged their support for me,” he said.

Siphamandla has not returned to school since the assault.

Several attempts to obtain a comment from the principal proved unsuccessful this week.

Details of an investigation conducted by the department of education on the alleged assault of the boy is yet to be revealed. Department spokesperson Jasper Zwane said that the investigation seeks to send a strong message to those teachers who continue to apply corporal punishment to learners at schools. He said that a full report will be published later this week.

• Some residents in Avalon who know the Choma family have alleged that the boy has been sick for a while now and even before the assault had a walking problem. One neighbour, who spoke to the Middelburg Observer on condition of anonymity, said that the boy was in and out of hospital with a walking problem for many months before the assault. “It’s possible that the assault aggravated the condition but certainly did not cause it,” she said.

It has also been revealed that the school prinicpal paid several amounts for healthcare following the assault, and only when he stopped paying was the case reported to the department of education.

Attempts to obtain a comment regarding the allegations from Siphamandla’s mother, Christina, proved unsuccessful as she was not answering her cellphone.

• Provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Leonard Hlathi said in a statement that police are in the process of obtaining statements as part of the investigation but did not reveal if and when the school principal will be charged.

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Yaseen Gaffar

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