Kimberley - A 14-year-old Kimberley girl is 28 weeks’ pregnant after she was allegedly raped on several occasions by her primary schoolteacher.
The girl’s parents confirmed that they had opened a case of statutory rape against the Grade 7 teacher from a Colville primary school.
Sydney Stander, spokesman for the Northern Cape Department of Education, on Thursday said that the department was aware of the incident and has placed the teacher on suspension to allow for a full investigation to establish the extent of the problem.
He added that the department viewed this type of conduct in a very serious light as it not only amounted to the abuse of authority and the trust children have in teachers, but also undermined the integrity of the teaching profession.
“We are happy that the parents have registered a criminal case and we hope the law will take its course. We also want to apologise to the parents of the learner for the unethical conduct of the practitioner.
“Our schools are supposed to be centres of excellence that harness and protect every child and offer hope for a better future,” Stander concluded.
The principal of the school also confirmed that the teacher had been suspended.
The distraught parents of the child on Thursday told the DFA how their (then) 13-year-old daughter was a victim of intimidation, physical and psychological abuse as well as sexual assault by the teacher since March 2012.
They said they only found out their daughter was expecting in November last year, when she was already 18 weeks’ pregnant.
It was only then that the child told her parents of the months of abuse she allegedly had to endure while in the teacher’s register class.
In a statement to the police, the child recalled how the teacher took a special interest in her and singled her out to stay after class and do favours for him.
When they approached the school to report the matter, the accused apparently admitted to having sexual intercourse with the child and suggested that she go for an abortion. He apparently offered to cover the costs involved.
It also emerged that he reportedly tried to bribe the child, saying he would give her money if she did not tell anyone that he was involved, after he found out she was pregnant. The child also had to endure threats of failing her grade if she reported him.
The parents of the learner, who this week started grade 8, said their child’s innocence had been stolen and her whole life ruined.
“She was a good student and we had lots of hope that she would make a success of her future, but now that future looks bleak. She has been extremely traumatised by these events and even tried to commit suicide. Community members have started to turn their backs on us and we don’t know how we will take care of the baby financially.
“We have lost faith in the Department of Education, an institution that we entrust our children to on a daily basis. How is it possible that children in classrooms get exposed to sexual predators like this,” her parents asked.
While they praised the principal of the school for her quick and decisive action once the matter was brought to her attention, they added that they believed that other teachers knew what was happening and did nothing.
Naomi Dube, from Kimberley Childline, on Thursday lashed out at the Department of Education, saying that they were supposed to be the custodians of children but were failing learners who were entrusted in their care.
She said the department had become an embarrassment, especially in situations where fellow teachers knew about sexual abuse but chose to look the other way or took the side of offenders.
Dube also said that allowing teachers accused of rape to continue teaching was an absolute violation of the rights of children.
Dube was referring to Tebogo Vernon Steward, a teacher from Sol Plaatje Primary School, who stands accused of raping a 16-year-old learner in April last year but still continues to teach at the school.
Steward will appear in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court next week.
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