Matric preparations at a Durban school have been disrupted after six teachers abandoned their classrooms in support of six of their colleagues who had been suspended for allegedly running a “sex for marks” scheme.
For almost a month the school has been without 12 of its 34 teachers.
The claims against the teachers came to light when an anonymous letter written by pupils was sent to the school’s governing body (SGB) at the end of July, but staff at the school told the Daily News they had been hearing rumours of the teachers’ alleged sexual exploits for about two years.
The name of the school and identities of the teachers and other stakeholders are being withheld to protect the pupils.
An SGB member said that at the end of July several pupils, including those who claimed to be victims, indicated they were tired of the goings-on and decided to write a letter exposing them.
The principal brought them to the attention of parents after a school function in August.
In the letter, the pupils claimed they were sexually abused by teachers, a parent said.
“All I know is that the letter said pupils were made prostitutes by being promised to pass,” she said.
“It said one of them became pregnant. One of the female teachers mentioned is said to be taking the schoolgirls to her house where they have sex with the teachers.”
The letter, which contained allegations against three teachers, was read out at a parents meeting on September 15.
The meeting erupted in anger, and four teachers were arrested and charged with trespassing after they allegedly disturbed the meeting, said police spokesman, Colonel Jay Naicker.
The four appeared in court on September 16, supported by two of their colleagues, who did not return to school that day.
At the school, angry parents had gathered at the gates demanding the removal of the teachers who were accused of sexual misconduct.
The four teachers and the two who supported them were later suspended for allegedly being part of the “sex for marks” scheme.
On September 17, the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) went to the school to mobilise all teachers to support the six who were suspended as the union believed the accusations were groundless and were part of a “smear campaign”.
Another six teachers boycotted class. The six suspended teachers were sent to an education department circuit office when the new school term began.
The school’s principal said the SGB had previously warned the now-suspended teachers to stop sleeping with schoolgirls.
“The teachers would give exam answers to their girlfriend pupils. This started a long time ago and we have held meetings about this and it is not new,” he said. “One of the teenage pupils is alleged to have run away from her home and has not come to school (since).”
The principal said a pupil had also been caught by her mother exchanging text messages with teachers.
“Her mother confiscated her phone. We do not know where she (the pupil) is and she has also not come back to school.”
Naicker said the SAPS Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit had gone to the school on September 16 to investigate the allegations, but no one had come forward to report the matter.
He said a criminal case had therefore not been opened and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education was now dealing with the matter.
Department spokesman, Muzi Mahlambi, said the boycotting teachers must return to school, warning that the no-work-no-pay policy would be applied.
“We will investigate to satisfy ourselves and take it from there,” he said.
He said that if the allegations were unfounded, the department would investigate the circumstances around the suspensions.
“There are six teachers that we are dealing with who are currently under suspension due to an investigation against them.
“The department has instructed them to go to school, failing which they should face disciplinary (action),” Mahlambi said. “It is a pity that this happens close to the exams and learning has been disrupted.”
Only five substitute teachers have been sent to the school to help make up for the ones not there.
But the principal insisted that learning had not been disrupted and was confident his school would do well in the matric exams, saying the pass rate would not be below 90 percent this year.
However, pupils had to write a computer test last week without their teacher.
“We are coping, but we have not got our reports for the September term,” a pupil said.
“We didn’t write a tourism test because the teacher of the subject left with everything. But the new teachers are trying.”
What the teachers say:
When the Daily News visited the suspended teachers last week, they said they welcomed the investigation and that if there was any teacher who had sex with a pupil, he or she should be disciplined.
One of them had not been on good terms with the principal before the letter surfaced, they said, adding that they were being victimised based on an anonymous source.
The teachers accused the principal of plotting a smear campaign against those who do not get along with him.
“If the principal does not like you, he fires you,” said one.
“Since 2008, three teachers have been fired at the school in the same way by the principal.”
They said they could not risk their lives by going back to the school, because another teacher had been victimised for speaking out.
Sadtu’s south Durban regional secretary, Sibongiseni Xulu, said the union wanted the matter to be fully investigated.
“In South Africa we do not work with hearsay. There are laws and regulations,” he said.
“There should be an investigation and people who are implicated must be charged.
“We condemn teacher-learner relationships. Our members are fully aware that if that is true, we will take action, but there should be an investigation.”
Police spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, confirmed that a case of intimidation had been opened at the Cato Manor police station after the complainant was allegedly intimidated when he was attending a school meeting on September 6.