OPINION | Teacher-pupil relationships 'disgusting' and 'unlawful', says education activist

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"In the absence of parents at school, teachers automatically assume the role of parents"
"In the absence of parents at school, teachers automatically assume the role of parents"

A local education activist has cautioned teachers who engage in inappropriate relationships with school pupils to refrain from their conduct.

Unfortunately, sexual relationships between teachers and students has been an issue for years and South African Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, previously admitted that sexual abuse has become a problem in public schools.

Deputy Chairperson of the Foundation for Education and Social Justice, Hendrick Makaneta, has called on Motshekga to work around the clock to expose these predators.

"It is not only disgusting, but it is also unlawful for teachers to have sex with pupils," Makaneta told Parent24.

Must read: OPINION: We aren’t doing enough to protect our boys from sexual assault

"Sexual acts are not voluntary if they result from an abuse of power"

The Sexual Offences Act criminalises sex with a person under the age of 16 by a person over the age of 18, and educators are legally obligated to refrain from sexual misconduct.

The law is quite clear about the ramifications of such behaviour: educators who are found guilty of sexual misconduct may face dismissal and deregistration from the South African Council of Educators, wherein they may never teach again, Makaneta explains. 

The Act sets out that "sexual acts are not voluntary if they result from an abuse of power or authority". 

The Sexual Offences Handbook also states that "A sexual relationship between someone who is in a position of trust and a person to whom that trust extends, is criminal."

Makaneta tells us "It does not matter whether the child attends school in a different province. A teacher remains a teacher even during school holidays."

"As activists in the terrain of education, we will not be able to protect teachers who sleep with pupils. It does not matter whether the pupil is no longer a minor or stays in another province," he adds. 

Also read: 'I turned out fine': Why is corporal punishment still happening in South Africa?

Teachers in the role of parents

Ill-disciplined teachers who engage in sexual activities with pupils undermine the teaching profession and should exercise setting better boundaries, Makaneta warns.

"In the absence of parents at school, teachers automatically assume the role of parents," he tells Parent24, further calling on the South African Council for Educators to "fasten their seatbelts" and be on the lookout for teachers who target pupils.

Members of the public are also encouraged to report unbecoming conduct from teachers who forget their positions as role models, he says, encouraging others to come forward and report such misconduct. 

Acts of sexual misconduct can be reported to a school teacher, the school's governing body, the SAPS, or any of the contact numbers below: 

Safe Schools Call Centre: 0800 45 46 47

NSPCC: 0800 136 663

Crime Stop: 08600 10111

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