A matric girl pregnant and three teachers suspended, as pupils claim one teacher slept with several girls
Education authorities are investigating a sex-for-marks scandal after three teachers were suspended last week.
The teachers are believed to have had sex with at least 10 schoolgirls at a rural Eastern Cape school, the name of which is being withheld to protect the girls’ identities.
One of the girls, now writing matric exams, is pregnant by her accounting teacher, said her uncle, who reported the matter to the provincial education department two weeks ago.
It’s been alleged that the teachers have been having sex with the pupils since at least June – but nothing was done about it.
“She conducted a home pregnancy test and informed the teacher who then promised to give her money for an abortion,” the uncle told City Press.
In a recorded conversation between the 19-year-old girl and her uncle, she details her relationship with the teacher and names other teachers having sex with their pupils.
The uncle said the teacher promised the girl marks and enticed her with money.
The uncle reported the matter to the school’s management and the education MEC’s office.
Lindelwa Mdemka, a senior teacher at the school, confirmed the girl told the principal her accounting teacher had sex with her. Mdemka said the girl was suicidal and begged the school not tell her parents.
“She is shocked. And we cannot deal with the case while the pupil is writing exams and threatening to take her own life if we inform the parents. We decided we would discuss it after the exams because we feared the girl might stop coming to school or worse, kill herself, because she is afraid,” Mdemka said.
Three other matric girls at the school told City Press that sex with teachers was common.
One said that in June, during winter school evening classes, a teacher and other pupils caught one of the suspended teachers having sex with a schoolgirl in the staff room, which the pregnant schoolgirl also confirms in the recording.
But Mdemka denied that management knew anything about this. The three girls listed 10 pupils known to be involved with the three suspended teachers.
“You would find situations where one teacher would be sleeping with two or three girls who are not only friends but even roommates,” said one.
Another said most of the schoolgirls involved with teachers live in other villages and rent rooms close by where they live alone and are “easy targets”.
A source said the girls were “desperate to pass”.
“I also rent in the village. No one monitors us, so you find that these teachers go for those girls who stay by themselves,” she said.
In the recording, the pregnant schoolgirl details how she first had sex with the teacher in August.
She met him at a garage in Mthatha and they went to his home in a nearby village. They had sex there and the next day he gave her R100, R30 for use as taxi fare, and he told her to keep the change.
“I know what I did was wrong and that the teacher does not even love me and was probably taking advantage of me, but I had a crush on him and he, too, liked me.
“After we slept together he asked me to keep our relationship a secret. He said this was because teachers are supposed to be parents to pupils,” she says in the recording.
“After I slept with him, the first time when I saw him in class I was ashamed. But subsequently it became normal.”
The pregnant schoolgirl told her uncle that one of the teachers had sex with three schoolgirls, two of whom are roommates in the village. They fell out after discovering they were sleeping with the same teacher.
A male teacher at the school said he was shocked by what the teachers had done, because the practice is exposed “in the news everyday”.
“These teachers are aware that what they are doing is wrong. We don’t know why they are doing this and these are young teachers and now they have ruined their careers and the future of these pupil,” he said.
The school’s governing body chairperson, Asakhe Mase, said:
“It looks like these three teachers were doing this thing in collaboration.
“It seems as though it was something they were discussing and were playing these girls and taking advantage of them,” she said.
Provincial education spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said even though the teachers were suspended, they were sending an investigation team to the school tomorrow.
“The allegations that the pupils and teachers sleep together in exchange for marks will be tested by the investigating team,” he said.
The scale of the problem
For the past 11 years a sex offenders register has been on the cards but, despite being established by an Act of Parliament in 2007, it still does not exist.
The list was to have contained the names of teachers found to have had sex with pupils, preventing them from being re-employed at other schools.
In the past financial year alone, 78 incidences of teachers having sex with or raping their pupils have been reported to the SA Council of Educators (Sace), according to its annual report.
Basic education department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the list required the collaboration of the education, justice and social development departments.
“The matter was recently addressed at the portfolio committee when the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) dealt with it, raising concerns about the current status,” he said.
“It’s shocking and disturbing when you find that some of those people are teachers who target the girl pupils for sexual exploitation. We need to get tough on them and find a way to send them to jail – not just dismiss them from teaching. Teachers are also not allowed by law to have romantic relationships with pupils.”
Mhlanga cited one case of a school in Diepsloot, Johannesburg, at which 34 pupils were pregnant this year.
“We don’t know yet if teachers are involved in the pregnancies but we will investigate,” he said.
“It’s about time we view this as a crisis. We cover sex and sexuality in the curriculum; we have a new policy coming in for implementation but it’s not enough. Society needs to stand against these issues especially when older men are involved.”
A collective agreement – struck between unions and the department at the ELRC – details the difficulties in dealing with teachers having sex with pupils.
These include “parents’ refusal to expose pupils to secondary trauma, resulting in offenders being re-absorbed into the education system to commit repeat offences”.
The document states that although this is a dismissible offence, some offending teachers were given a mere three-month unpaid suspension.
“Pupils and parents are reluctant to testify afresh due to the secondary trauma that pupils are subjected to,” the document states, adding that this leads to the reinstatement of teachers instead of them being struck off the role by Sace.
Now it has been agreed that an arbitration process, led by qualified and experienced arbitrators, will replace the department’s internal disciplinary hearings.
The intermediaries will help children give evidence and use special venues, such as children’s courts, with two-way mirrors.