Angry parents have shut down a school in the Eastern Cape in the wake of a scandal in which schoolgirls were extorted for sex in exchange for passing the year, and which left one schoolgirl pregnant.
Six teachers at the Flagstaff Comprehensive High School in Esiginqini have been accused of demanding sex from schoolgirls, and those who did not give in to their demands were failed.
The Eastern Cape education department has confirmed that it is aware of the matter and that an investigation is under way.
Villager Gloria Mdedelwa (61), who has two grandchildren at the school, said it’s been two weeks since teaching and learning stopped at the school after pupils discovered a pile of discarded school reports and marked exam papers in a ditch. These, she said, showed that some pupils had in fact passed, while the reports they received at the end of last year showed that they had failed.
“When pupils, especially the female ones, came out during a parents’ meeting held after this discovery, pupils also revealed – to the shock of the parents – that some teachers demanded sex from them in exchange for good marks,” Mdedelwa said.
“This then meant that some pupils were made to fail on purpose just because they had refused to sleep with these teachers. That is when all hell broke loose. Parents fired the school governing body, and demanded that the school be closed, that the teachers be fired and for the department to intervene.”
Matric pupil Asiphe Dlingidlingi (18) told City Press that it was common knowledge that some of the teachers were having sex with their pupils.
“Everybody knows that this thing is happening. It has not happened to me personally, but some of my friends told me about being approached by a teacher who wanted to sleep with them. When they refused, he would threaten to fail them,” she said.
'I just wish I was a boy'
Another pupil (15), who is in Grade 9, said: “At times, I just wish I was a boy because they are not really affected by this thing. What is happening is unfair and evil. They are ruining our future. How can a teacher whom you see as a father figure say he will only give you marks provided you sleep with him? This is one of the reasons I want to study social work to help young girls who have been abused,” she said.
Provincial education spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said their investigation began last week.
“First, we had to counsel the pupils and encourage more to come forward with information on the matter. Secondly, this week, we are busy with the preliminary investigation that will help us figure out the extent of the problem,” said Mtima.
He said they were also “contemplating” suspending the implicated teachers so that they didn’t interfere with the investigation.
Mtima said the preliminary investigation found that, out of the six implicated teachers, at least two had had sex with pupils.
“Three pupils have been affected. Of the three, one left the school after allegedly being impregnated by a teacher,” he said.
“Allegations are that some pupils were made to pass while others were made to fail, despite what their actual marks were. The allegations are that those who pass must have sexual relationships with teachers – if not, they will be made to fail and repeat a class.”
Mtima said that the principal, who was also suspended, was not implicated in the sex for marks scandal, but for manipulating the results.
The school was quiet when City Press visited it at 10am on Friday. All the classrooms, some of which were dilapidated, with broken windows and visible cracks in the walls, were empty.
'Tempers were very high'
Alex Kati, the school’s security guard and caretaker whose daughter attends the school, said they were shocked by the children’s revelations.
“Parents want the accused teachers to be held accountable, and for learning to come back to normal. As a parent, you just become numb by the thought of your own child being a victim of this,” he said.
Kati said that, after the revelations of the sex for marks scandal, pupils held a protest and tried to burn down the school, and their parents joined in.
“There were stories of pupils sometimes being impregnated by teachers who gave them money to terminate those pregnancies. When there was a meeting here last week, tempers were very high,” he said.
Vuyisani Ntsoyana (17), who is in Grade 10, says he is one of many pupils now looking for a new school after theirs was shut down.
“I have just been to Bhokazi High School to ask for a place there. I was told to come to my school and ask for a transfer letter, but there is no one at the school. My life is at a standstill. I am tired of sitting at home doing nothing,” he said.
“All I want is to go back to class so that I can learn and then be able to provide for my family. No one is educated at home. I am their only hope and education is our only way out of poverty. I live with my parents, who are both unemployed, and we survive on social grants together with my two younger siblings. I just wish the department would intervene before it is too late.”
The local headwoman, who asked not to be named, said: “The department has promised to report back to us as a community on February 22 on the outcomes of their investigation. In the meantime, our children cannot go to school because parents are baying for the blood of those implicated teachers, and even the teachers who are not implicated are scared for their lives and decided not to attend school. It is very tense.”
Another parent, Asakhe Gede (38), said they were angry and ashamed by what had happened.
“I am so disappointed because, when I look at teachers, I see a parent. When we send our children to school, we put them in the care of the teachers, who are themselves parents. The last thing we expect is for them to see grown women in our children who they can sleep with. This is disgusting,” she said.