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Cape Town - An average of three incidents a month of alleged sexual assault or abuse by teachers has been reported to the Western Cape Education Department over the past five months.
Bronagh Casey, spokeswoman for Education MEC Donald Grant, said 15 such incidents had been reported since the start of the financial year in April.
Last week a Knysna teacher was arrested after a 12-year-old pupil was allegedly sexually assaulted. Police said the man had been allegedly caught “red-handed” by the school principal.
Casey said 33 incidents of alleged sexual assault or abuse by teachers had been reported during the previous financial year. Fourteen teachers had been found guilty of sexual assault or abuse in 2012/13, while one teacher had been found guilty so far during 2013/14.
“Charges of sexual misconduct can range from inappropriate comments to different kinds of physical contact. If found guilty the educator could be dismissed.
Other sanctions, depending on the charge, could include a final written warning or a fine. Sometimes a suspension without pay can be imposed,” Casey said.
She said the department viewed sexual assault or misconduct “in an extremely serious light”.
All cases of sexual misconduct by teachers were reported to the South African Council of Educators and noted on Persal, the national register of public servants.
But it’s not just teachers assaulting pupils - pupils do so too.
In the first six months of this year there were 10 requests to the department for expulsion involving alleged sexual offences by pupils against other pupils. Seven were expelled.
Last year 19 such referrals were made to the department and there were 10 expulsions.
“These included allegations of sexual harassment, indecent exposure, immoral conduct, sexual assault, masturbation and sexual intercourse.”
Jonavon Rustin provincial secretary of the SA Democratic Teachers Union, said the union rejected any abuse of power by teachers over pupils.
“If found guilty, these teachers should not be in schools.”
Pupils can call the Safe Schools hotline on 0800 454 647.