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Johannesburg - The Joburg teacher accused of sending pornographic images and suggestive messages to a teenage pupil was on Monday described as a “great teacher” by other pupils at the school.
The teacher was arrested but is out on bail.
“Everyone thought he was a great teacher, he was always cracking jokes,” said matric pupil Aviv Pooth.
He said Hyde Park High School had not informed pupils about what was happening.
“One day the teacher was gone and there was a replacement and there were rumours going around,” Pooth said.
He said the pupil in question had gone to the teacher’s home on several occasions as they were apparently building a computer together.
The teacher was bust after he sent the 16-year-old a photo of himself naked in the bath and unwittingly engaged in a late-night WhatsApp conversation with the boy’s mother.
Another pupil, who did not want to be named, said the teacher was well-liked.
Police were at the school on Monday morning, but said they were there to prevent any vandalism or drinking in public by the matrics who were celebrating their last school day before final exams.
Lance Noah, the father of a Grade 8 pupil, said he was “extremely concerned” about the news.
“This is crazy, not only do we have to worry about parenting, we now have to worry about policing,” he said.
After hearing about the allegations on the radio while driving his daughter to the school on Monday morning, Noah phoned the school, which told him they would inform parents about the situation “as soon as possible”.
Noah said a better screening process should be implemented.
“They (teachers) are caregivers to your kids and should be checked properly,” he said.
The teacher is suspected of sexually grooming the teenager for about eight months – having singled him out as a troubled pupil with trust and dependency issues.
The Gauteng Department of Education has confirmed that the teacher was suspended and that there is an independent investigation into how the school and the district office handled the case.
This follows complaints by the boy’s mother that it took eight days for the teacher to be suspended, and that she was left to lay a criminal charge while trying to comfort her son.
The woman has also raised questions about whether the school should have identified the alleged sex pest earlier, how much it knew about his behaviour, and whether any other children may have been lured into the same trap.
The names of the pupil and his mother are being withheld to protect them, while the teacher is yet to plead in court and therefore cannot be named.
He is expected in court early next month to face charges relating to child pornography. He is out on bail.
The case came to light on July 30 when the mother saw an image pop up on her son’s cellphone screen. It was a picture of a man sitting naked in a bath, holding his genitals. Then she discovered who had sent the message.
“It was that horrible, cold realisation that suddenly somebody that you’ve trusted with your child’s well-being – not only that you’ve trusted but that an institution like a school with such a good reputation has trusted – is actually sending this kind of material and having this level of a discussion with a minor,” she said.
She decided to pretend to be her son and engaged the teacher in a WhatsApp conversation (See Related Articles).
During this time, the teacher sent several images – believed to be child pornography – and made numerous sexual suggestions.
He also spoke about another boy at the school who had been targeted and was allegedly spending time at the teacher’s house.
The mother reported the case to the school principal the next morning, but she claims it was eight days before the teacher was suspended.
The school escalated the matter to the district office and it became entangled in red tape.
EyeWitness News and The Star