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Johannesburg - A Joburg teacher has been arrested after sending a 16-year-old pupil a photograph of himself naked in a bath and unwittingly engaging in a late-night WhatsApp conversation with the boy’s mother.
The Hyde Park High School teacher is suspected of sexually grooming the teenager for around eight months – having singled him out as a troubled pupil with trust and dependency issues.
The Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) has confirmed 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 more than a week 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.
The case came to light on July 30, when the mother accidentally 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.
After some investigation, the woman discovered who 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 that lasted about 15 minutes.
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.
The mother did everything she could to protect her son. “Our own Department of Education and officials entrusted with the safety of our children have no understanding of what the law says in order to protect these children and don’t empower themselves with the knowledge and the tools to be able to do so,” she said.
She managed to seek help from a director in the national Department of Education, David Silman, who helped her open a police case and even went to court to speak to prosecutors.
Silman fears those who should have known how to handle the matter were negligent or tried to shield the school.
“In an instance like that, it’s instant – you remove the threat from the school immediately,” he said. “You tell the man ‘go home’ and if he doesn’t, you call the police. The principal has the authority.”
He says the school or a social worker should have gone to the police that same day.
GDE spokesman Gershwin Chuenyane said the pupil and the family were receiving support.
“The teacher is suspended and we have put in place an independent investigation that will cover all circumstances regarding this case. The department will be guided by the outcome of the investigation on what action to take.”
Chuenyane confirmed that the investigation would cover the actions of the school and the district office. The school principal could not be reached for comment.
The WhatsApp conversation:
7/30/2013 22:05: PUPIL: G’Nite
7/30/2013 22:06: TEACHER: U sure u don’t want to... U know?
7/30/2013 22:06: TEACHER: Kidding gnite
7/30/2013 22:06: PUPIL: Don’t want to what .... My fone crashed I lost the last few messages
7/30/2013 22:07: TEACHER:Oh. I was just lying here looking at smutty stuff...
7/30/2013 22:08: TEACHER: I kinda get a bit of perverse pleasure from making u horny
7/30/2013 22:08: PUPIL: J
7/30/2013 22:09: PUPIL: Not fair if u don’t share!
7/30/2013 22:10: TEACHER: Gimme a sec... (ANOTHER PUPIL) trying to get me to con his mom to let him come over
7/30/2013 22:10: PUPIL: K
7/30/2013 22:11: TEACHER: <image omitted> Pornographic image depicting a child and a man
7/30/2013 22:12: PUPIL: Is he coming?
7/30/2013 22:13: TEACHER: Up to his mom
7/30/2013 22:13: PUPIL: K
7/30/2013 22:13: TEACHER: Or if he lets me jerk him off hahaha
7/30/2013 22:13: PUPIL: Hahaha
7/30/2013 22:13: TEACHER: <image omitted> Pornographic image of two men engaged in sexual intercourse
7/30/2013 22:13: TEACHER: That’s all I want to do at the moment
7/30/2013 22:14: PUPIL: To who???
7/30/2013 22:14: TEACHER: Does it matter...
7/30/2013 22:14: PUPIL: S’pose not
7/30/2013 22:15: TEACHER: <image omitted> Image of
young naked boy posing with his rear to the camera
7/30/2013 22:15: TEACHER: Nice bum
7/30/2013 22:15: TEACHER: I really wouldn’t mind doing it to u
7/30/2013 22:15: TEACHER: In fact... I was fantasizing about it the other day
7/30/2013 22:16: PUPIL: J
7/30/2013 22:16: PUPIL: I gotta go – she is shouting!
7/30/2013 22:16: PUPIL: G’nite
7/30/2013 22:16: TEACHER: Delete hey
7/30/2013 22:16: TEACHER:Okay gnite
7/30/2013 22:17: TEACHER:And come past tomorrow
7/30/2013 22:17: PUPIL: K
7/30/2013 22:17: TEACHER:Maybe my hand will make its way across your um...
7/30/2013 22:20: TEACHER: Put the phone under your blanket and pretend to be asleep :)