A gogo from Thulamahashe, Mpumalanga, is up in arms after she learned that her 15-year-old granddaughter has been having an affair with her 43-year-old teacher. The Grade 10 learner at Siboyiye Combined School, who cannot be named because she is a minor, has allegedly been involved with the male teacher since she was 12 years old. “She is still a baby, what does she know about a relationship between a man and woman, let alone marriage? This is hurting me a lot,” says the grandmother, who also cannot be named to protect the learner as she is still a minor.STRANGE BEHAVIOUR The gogo says there have always been rumours of the affair, but they were never proven until recently when she noticed her granddaughter’s strange behaviour of disappearing over weekends. “I went to the school and asked the principal what it was that they are teaching this child during weekends because she always made an excuse about school,” she explains. The grandmother says the principal called the teacher and the learner to his office and told the teacher that she wanted answers. “The teacher admitted to my face that he and my grandchild are involved in a relationship and that he loves her and wants to pay lobola for her. I was so shocked. I looked at my poor granddaughter hoping and praying that this was just a terrible dream and that she would tell me it isn’t true. But to my surprise, she confirmed what this man was saying and looked me straight in the eye and told me she also wants to marry this old man,” she says. The grandmother says she left the school feeling numb from the hurt and disappointment of what had happened. “My grandchild is an orphan and I am taking care of her. It kills me to see what is happening to her and I feel like a failure. I don’t know what to do with this situation, I am just helpless,” she says with tears filling her eyes.A COMMUNITY UP IN ARMS When the granny could not do anything about the situation, the community mobilised and alerted the local tribal authority about the situation and their intention to physically remove the teacher from the school. “We simply could not sit back and watch while this monster was destroying the future of this child. We had to act to protect her, especially because the teacher has left his wife,” says a community member who didn’t want to be named. She says her motherly instincts did not allow her to sit back and watch while the teacher left with this child every weekend in full view of everyone. “What made me even more angry and forced me to alert the tribal council was when I heard that he had made her pregnant and took her to have an abortion,” she says. Upon hearing of the affair, the tribal council told the community it would handle the matter. Fanyane Ubusi, who is an induna, says the tribal council got involved in the matter to prevent the angry community from burning down the school down. “We went to the school and asked to see the teacher and the girl in the presence of the principal. When we asked the teacher about the affair he confirmed it, but said the relationship has since ended. The girl also confirmed the affair,” says Fanyane. “So the council decided that the teacher should leave the school and report for duty at the Department of Education’s circuit office because we no longer trust him with the young girls he is teaching. We also saw how angry the community was. He agreed and thanked us for intervening; even saying we had helped him.” AN APPROVING AUNT A relative, who also didn’t want to be named, says the teenager’s aunt is aware of the affair and approves of it. “Last year, the teacher paid the aunt R8 000 fine for having an affair with her, but the granny was not involved in this and does not approve of the affair or lobola,” says the relative. The Mpumalanga Department of Education has since suspended the teacher and launched an investigation into the affair. The matter has also been reported to the police. “We sent our psychologists to the school to counsel the child and make sure she is in a good space. The department is shocked and wants to make it clear that it will not tolerate such acts in our schools. We want to assure the community that we will thoroughly investigate the matter and make it a priority,” says the department’s spokesperson, Jasper Zwane.