Psychologists condemn Gymnasium’s ‘military initiation’

Windhoek – There are many ways to welcome new learners to an institution than what happened at Windhoek Gymnasium Private School last week, says a Windhoek psychologist who described the initiation as ‘psychological violence’.

Dr Shaun Whittaker described the incidents as embarrassing to new learners after photos went viral showing Grade 8 pupils strapped to a pole during initiation at the school.

“We need to stop this cycle of psychological violence,” remarked Whittaker.

Whittaker explained that this kind of initiation arose out of the psychology of militarism and is intended to humiliate the individual and subvert personal boundaries in order for the individual to submit to the psychology of the group.

He said this is a standard practice in the military and it really should have no place in a democratic society, adding that it is about time this autocratic culture is ended.

New Era also approached Windhoek psychologist Dr Joab Mudzanapabwe to comment on the implications of initiation to which he responded that it depended on the quality and degree of initiation.

According to Mudzanapabwe excessive initiation demeans the learner and erodes his/her self-esteem. “If they (new learners) have a history of trauma it may cause re-traumatisation,” he said.

However, Mudzanapabwe said some learners may emerge stronger because they have been exposed to extreme conditions before and this, too, depends on their background.

He indicated that nowadays the way children are raised is protective, adding that children are rather of the softer side and there is no real benefit for them to be exposed to extreme activities.

“In this era and age I don’t understand the benefits of that (initiation). I don’t see the relevance of that especially the way modern life is going. Some people are cruel and exposed to life challenges and may take it out on the new ones.”

Managing Director at Windhoek Gymnasium Private School, Colette Rieckert, said it is unfortunate that one photo was taken out of context and circulated so widely.

Curro Holdings, the company that owns the school, released a statement on behalf of the school. Head of Marketing and Communication Mari Lategan said Curro Holdings regrets to confirm that an incident occurred which was misconstrued as a human rights transgression of learners at the school.

They said they are doing everything in their power to support the affected individuals.

Lategan added that at Curro Holdings they promote an education environment that is dedicated to fostering a value system that honours child friendliness, positive discipline, Christian ethics and values and creative thinking.

“It is for this reason that any violation of the human rights of any learner or staff member will not be tolerated,” the statement reads.

She further said that they provided commentary and engaged with department of education authorities in the country on the matter. Recommended measures will be evaluated and implemented to avoid any future re-occurrence.

New Era understands that acting secretary of the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) Veikko Nekundi had sought clarity from the school about the incidents.

January 2017
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