Teacher body fails its duty

2017-02-26 06:10
MEC Mandla Makupula

MEC Mandla Makupula

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Port Elizabeth - The country’s professional body for teachers has failed to strike off the roll a headmaster who was fired for sexually harassing three schoolgirls and then beating them for rejecting his advances.

This, say insiders within the SA Council for Educators (Sace), is because his lover headed the investigation against him. 

The principal of a high school in the Fort Beaufort district was found guilty of misconduct late last year by the Eastern Cape education department and it was recommended that he be dismissed. Last month, he appealed that decision to education MEC Mandla Makupula and lost.

But it has emerged that he was found not guilty by Sace, where his former lover and mother of his child worked.

The names of both the principal and the Sace investigator are being withheld by City Press to protect the child.

Four sources within Sace told City Press how the couple continued their relationship despite the fact that the principal was, at the time, being investigated by Sace and the Eastern Cape education department.

“She was investigating [him] before the relationship started. She went to that school to meet him and staff. I’m not sure how many times, but then suddenly there was a relationship. She openly talked about their relationship ... After that, the investigation stalled,” one official said.

“The investigation stalled but somehow his file was among those that were handed over to the Sace [executive committee] with the view that they were closed incorrectly. The exco hired [private investigator] Basil Snayer to investigate his case. But last year [the principal] was cleared.”

"No sufficient evidence"

Sace started their investigation into the principal in 2013. At the same time, the Eastern Cape education department was conducting its own.

While under investigation, the principal became involved with the Sace official and their child was born in 2015. City Press has obtained a copy of the child’s birth certificate which lists both the principal and the Sace official as parents.

While he was being investigated, Sace appointed the principal to sit on a task team, headed by his lover, appointed to investigate the sale of teaching posts, after teacher union Sadtu’s jobs-for-cash scam was exposed by City Press in April 2014. Sace found no evidence any posts had been sold.

During the time he was being investigated, the principal earned both his full salary and benefits as well as a stipend from Sace for being an investigator.

Eastern Cape education spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima confirmed the department had fired the principal. “The MEC applauded the initial judgment that he be fired. He was served with the notice last week. He was found guilty in accordance with the Employment of Educators Act section 17.”

The principal was, Mtima said, also expected to repay the R1.9m in salary he earned while on suspension pending the outcome of the investigation, dating back to 2013.

Sace hired Basil Snayer to investigate his case. Snayer, however, said there was insufficient evidence against the principal.

“I did my job for Sace and Sace owns and has my report. It is incorrect to say he was cleared or not found guilty. That could send a message that Sace is lenient with people. There was no sufficient evidence. People did not want to come forward to give evidence. It’s a very sensitive matter,” he said.

A senior Eastern Cape education official said the principal was found guilty of misconduct in November but appealed the ruling. “The hearing had two sanctions; that he be fired or demoted, but he appealed to the MEC and lost. He harassed three learners and beat them when they rejected his advances,” the official said.

Asked about her relationship with the principal, the Sace official told City Press: “I have children. I don’t want my private life made public.”

She confirmed, however, that the principal’s case landed on her desk. She would neither confirm nor deny that she investigated it, but said: “Any file that comes start with me.”

The principal did not respond to SMSes and calls requesting comment, sent since Thursday morning.

Sace chairperson Veronica Hofmeester said: “Sace did conduct several investigations with regards to alleged sexual advances to learners, administering corporal punishment, [and] maladministration of finances between 2013 and 2016, and upon doing the investigation witnesses did not come forward to testify.

“The last investigation was concluded on November 29 2016 wherein [the principal] was found not guilty on all charges that were put to him due to lack of evidence … The allegations could not be corroborated because of witnesses … therefore no further action was taken.”

Asked about the relationship between the principal and the Sace official, Hofmeester said Sace did not have a comment.

However, she said: “The council of February 2017 commissioned an investigation if the code of ethics of Sace was breached.”

Sace spokesperson Thembinkosi Ndhlovu declined to comment “any further pending the finalisation of the investigation”. Hofmeester said the Eastern Cape education department had not communicated the outcome of the principal’s case to Sace.

What Sace should do to sex offenders:

According to the department of basic education, a teacher found to have sexually harassed pupils may be charged with misconduct in terms of the Employment of Educators Act No 76 of 1998.

“The educator may be disciplined in terms of the Code of Good Conduct of the South African Council for Educators No 31 of 2000 and may be deregistered from the Sace if found guilty,” the department’s website says.

“Section 17 of the Education Laws Amendment Act (No 53 of 2000) provides that a teacher must be dismissed if he or she is found guilty of, among other things: committing an act of sexual assault on a learner, student or other employee, having a sexual relationship with a learner of the school where he or she is employed or being found guilty of serious assault, regardless of the age of the learner.”

The department further states that sexual relations between any teacher and pupil are totally forbidden even if the pupil consents and is over the age of 16.

In addition, teachers and school managers have a legal and ethical duty to report any sexual abuse or misconduct happening at a school.

Last year, City Press reported that Sace, which imposed lifetime bans on 170 teachers across the country in the past two years for sexual offences, called for the establishment of a single database of blacklisted teachers who committed sexual offences.

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Read more on:    mandla makupula  |  port elizabeth  |  education

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