The principal of Soweto’s AB Xuma Primary learnt as early as February that a scholar patroller at her school was allegedly sexually assaulting her young pupils. But she allegedly told the children not to tell their parents because she was “still investigating” the matter.Parents told City Press this week that Maria Mthimkhulu failed to act when the alleged abuse was reported to her shortly after the man began working at the school.And now the number of pupils the scholar patroller allegedly raped and sexually violated has risen to 87.This latest figure is based on reports made to counsellors from the department of social development as well as NGO the Teddy Bear Clinic, the Gauteng education department said. The children respectfully called the scholar patroller, who is believed to be in his late fifties, “Mkhulu” and “Malume”. In return, he allegedly sexually assaulted the children, from Grade R to Grade 7, in the security guardhouse at the school’s gate. He also allegedly gave them hidings, spanking them on the buttocks, and told them he wanted to have sex with them.A parent told City Press her daughter had told her that the man had spanked her.“She said Mkhulu spanked her on the buttocks and wanted to kiss her. She ran away. She told me that the principal instructed children not to tell their parents about what was being done by Mkhulu,” she said. “When I confronted the principal she told me that it was because she was still investigating.”Mthimkhulu and her school management team were suspended this week.Teboho Tenyane – the man’s neighbour who has two nephews at the school and attends parents’ meetings – said the first allegation was reported to Mthimkhulu by a Grade R girl’s grandmother in February.The woman’s four-year-old granddaughter was allegedly sexually harassed by the guard after swimming practice at a local pool.The child had gone back to school to fetch her bag when the man allegedly told her he wanted to have a sexual relationship with her. At a meeting held in February, the furious grandmother demanded answers from the principal and wanted to know what had been done about her complaint, Tenyane said. He added that the school’s governing body had instructed Mthimkhulu to lay a charge with the police.“That didn’t sound like the man I know,” Tenyane said on Friday,“But the allegations were shocking. I also asked the principal at the meeting why she didn’t act; what if this was her daughter?”No action was taken against the man and he allegedly continued assaulting children at the school."Children loved him"The alleged abuse was only revealed when a group of parents, whose children had told them about what he had allegedly done to them, went to the police themselves.One mother said: “He molested my daughter and her two friends inside the security guardhouse. After my daughter was examined at the clinic, the doctor found that she had bruises in her private parts."I’m still shocked, hurt and angry. I still don’t believe this has happened.”Yet another said: “He touched my daughter’s breasts and told her he wanted to make love to her.”The man would, they alleged, rub the girls’ thighs and, after he abused them, would threaten them and warn them not to tell their parents.“He told my daughter that he would kill her and myself if she reported what he had done,” said the mother of one of the children.But his neighbours expressed disbelief after the man was arrested on Monday.He appeared briefly in the Protea Magistrates Court on Wednesday, was remanded in custody, and will appear in court again next Wednesday.“Children loved him. They would run towards him. We don’t know what he gave our children but they really loved him. We trusted him. There was no reason not to trust him,” said one neighbour.Soweto East cluster police spokesperson Captain Nomvula Mbense confirmed that 10 cases – one of rape and nine of sexual assault – have been officially opened against the man. Gauteng education spokesperson Steve Mabona said 44 cases had been officially laid against him, however.Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi visited the school on Friday for meetings with teachers and parents. The department appointed an independent body this week to investigate all allegations against Mthimkhulu and her management team.City Press visited the house where the suspect lived with his two daughters, believed to be aged between 13 and 18, who attend a local high school, but no one was home.Tenyane said the neighbours believed the suspect was a “good guy”.“He was well dressed and always clean. You wouldn’t say that he has done all these things. He seemed genuine,” he said. “He is a guy I would go to for transport money when I go to job interviews and he will help me.“The community is still shocked. We never expected him to do something like this. You would really defend him if someone accused him of all this. He seemed like an angel.”Mabona said the man had been recommended to the school by the local Community Policing Forum, where he was a member. “Our investigation is going to be broad. It will also reveal why the principal reported this late to the district,” Mabona said.