Caregiver who 'assaulted' autistic boy was on final written warning
Video footage of the incident has been released exclusively to Times Select
A caregiver accused of assaulting a 10-year-old pupil at a special needs school was slapped with a final written warning in 2014 for inciting pupils to assault another pupil.
Nothemba Saleni, a child and youth care worker at the Randburg Clinic School in Johannesburg, was caught on surveillance cameras last month twisting the arm of the grade five pupil behind his back in the dining hall of the school’s hostel, causing him to fall to the floor.
Gauteng education department spokesman Steve Mabona told Times Select on Saturday that the employee had been served with a notice asking her to provide reasons why she should not be suspended.
"The department through the psycho social team is providing counselling to the affected learner," he said.
The graphic footage, seen by Times Select, shows Saleni pulling the boy towards the corner of the room. It shows her bending over him and apparently hitting him with her hands while he is on the ground. Saleni has denied assaulting the boy, saying she was just restraining him.Shane Conley, a social worker based at St Mary’s Children’s Home in Rosettenville, Johannesburg, where the boy is a ward of the state, confirmed that a case of assault against Saleni was opened at the Randburg police station on February 19, related to the incident seen in the video.
“I was shocked at the incident. It is sad that he had to be exposed to something like this,” she said.
The Randburg Clinic School caters for autistic pupils aged three to 18 years, and those with severe behavioural difficulties who are between the ages of six and 13 years.
Members of the school’s governing body insisted on watching the video clip after they were informed about the alleged assault by the school’s managers.
A governing body member, Farnaaz Haffejee, informed Sipho Mkhulisi, the Gauteng education department’s district director for Johannesburg North, of the incident in a letter dated February 22.
She told Mkhulisi that it was not the first time that such an incident had taken place and that it was "becoming a trend" among child and youth care workers as previously reported matters had not been handled appropriately by the department.
“We were horrified to see what had happened. What is even more disturbing is the fact that these GDE [Gauteng department of education] employees are still overseeing our children.”
Haffejee also told Mkhulisi that parents were demanding to know the outcome of an investigation into a complaint of assault against an autistic pupil by another child and youth care worker that took place in October last year.
Times Select has seen documents confirming that Saleni was slapped with a final written warning and two months’ suspension without pay in February 2014 after she was found guilty of instructing six learners to assault another pupil.She was also found guilty of using “inappropriate” language following incidents in which she referred to pupils as “creatures”.
Another parent told the Times Select on Friday that she had opened a case of assault and crimen injuria at the Randburg police station in November last year against a nurse at the school after she “manhandled” her daughter and called her a “bitch”.
Commenting on last month’s incident, Saleni denied assaulting the boy, saying that on the morning of the incident she spoke to him “nicely and he responded very rudely”.
“I had to push him against the wall and restrain him. When you restrain them you need to put their hands behind their back. So he fell. He went down on his knees and then after that he walked out of the dining hall.”
She said that he then ran and “we had to run after him”.
“He went to the principal’s office and then when he gets there the principal never even wanted to hear what took place because between me and the principal and the other staff there are grievances.”
Saleni said they underwent “restraining training” about two years ago, adding: “The children in our school are very wild and when they are very wild, especially in the mornings when they haven’t taken their medication, they can be very aggressive.”
She confirmed that a policeman from the Randburg police station had taken a statement from her about the incident.