Johannesburg - A principal of a popular independent school in Orange Farm, south of Joburg, is on the run after several pupils at his school accused him of sexual harassment and rape.
Police spokesman Warrant Officer Tsholonyana Matlaletsa confirmed that the police were investigating multiple cases of sexual harassment and rape against the principal.
He said police had taken statements from several girls at the school and were still trying to get statements from four others. All the girls are in matric.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga revealed on Thursday that more than 300 teachers had been charged with sexually abusing girls over the past three years.
The Star reported last year that sexual harassment and rape of pupils by their teachers accounted for the most cases of unethical conduct that the SA Council of Educators (SACE) was grappling with.
The DA said sexual offences at schools, especially at the hands of teachers, were extremely worrisome. The party has requested a meeting with the council to discuss plans to protect pupils.
On Sunday, two of the girls at the Orange Farm school recounted their ordeal to The Star.
Mihloti*, who was allegedly raped by the principal, said her torment started early last year when he started making sexual advances.
The principal, she said, had promised to help her pass her Grade 11 and 12 in return for sexual favours. Describing the man as powerful and feared, Mihloti said he would threaten to expel her if she did not accede to his sexual demands.
“He said he loved me and that he had never felt that way before. He said he would help me pass my exams, especially matric,” Mihloti said, adding that the principal even gave her some question papers ahead of exams.
Her ordeal, she said, worsened this year when she started matric.
“He always asked to see me after Saturday lessons. He would sometimes call me to the office, hug me and try to kiss me. I just turned away and avoided him.”
The pupil said there was nothing she could do on March 15, when the principal allegedly raped her. The alleged rape, she said, took place inside a public phone shop located in the schoolyard.
“After the lessons, I remained behind studying with some of my friends. He sent another boy to call me. When I got inside, he closed the door. He held me, kissed me and undressed me. He then raped me.
“When he was finished raping me, he said ‘thank you’.”
As the pupil spoke, her aunt shook her head, tears welling in her eyes. She said her niece was once raped by an uncle she stayed with.
The pupil continued: “It was so hard to face the world. I blamed myself, thinking I was so stupid. But I had nobody to talk to. I thought the best thing to do was to keep quiet and get my matric. I was desperate. But I still had to go to school and face him. It was so hard and I couldn’t concentrate.”
The principal was suspended for two months, but he returned to the school last month without offering an explanation.
“He came to me and said I should drop the case. I was shaking.”
Another pupil, Hluphekani*, said: “He used to call us to his office. One day last year, he told me that teachers at the school dated learners. He asked for my numbers, but I refused to give them to him.”
The principal’s alleged sexual offences ended last month when several girls, some parents and a teacher alerted the police.
Matlaletsa said the matter was initially treated as an inquiry. When they went to the principal’s home last week, they realised that he had fled.
“The family said they don’t know where he is. He’s a suspect now and he’ll be charged with rape,” Matlaletsa said.
The school spokesman, Michael Mabaso, said “the teacher was suspended and resigned while on suspension”. “He returned to the school to do a handover.”
Motshekga said while in some of the cases teachers had been fired for the rape and sexual abuse of pupils, it was regrettable that the SACE had to withdraw cases because parents had refused to let their children give evidence.
Of the 333 cases investigated, 212 had been finalised, according to Motshekga. - Additional reporting by Nontobeko Mtshali