Durban - More than 20 teachers are dragged before the SA Council of Educators (Sace) every quarter for offences ranging from corporal punishment to sexual assault, including rape of pupils.
The teachers’ regulatory body’s chief executive, Rej Brijraj, told the Daily News this week that more than 100 teachers had been dealt with in the past year for various offences, and various penalties had been imposed, including striking off the roll those found guilty of sexual offences.
“Although I don’t have the exact figures on the top of my head, the council sits quarterly and I can safely say we are dealing with 20 to 30 cases per quarter.
“The sanctions range from fines, suspensions, and some result in teachers being struck off the roll. Those will never teach in the country for the rest of their lives. We must, however, bear in mind that each case is treated based on its merits,” Brijraj said.
His comments follow a DA statement released earlier this week that expressed concern over the slow pace at which the cases were dealt with, and the alarming number of sexual offences against pupils committed by teachers.
In the statement,DA MP Sonja Boshoff, who sits on the Basic Education Portfolio Committee, said a parliamentary response to party questions on sexual offences committed by teachers on pupils revealed that sexual offences on pupils remained high.
“The reply reveals that an average of 101 cases are committed each year, with 28 cases already having been received by Sace this year alone.
“Of the 126 cases reported in 2011/12, 55 remain unresolved. This is disturbing. The finalisation rate of cases remains unsatisfactory - with a large number of investigations carried over into the following year - owing to parents limiting the Sace’s access to children,” reads the statement.
Boshoff said it was unclear how many cases finalised by the Sace have been handed over for criminal investigation, nor is there any clarity on how many have undergone successful criminal prosecution.
More concerning, she said, was that teachers under suspicion of committing sexual offences against children remain in class, presenting a risk.
She said Sace and department Minister Angie Motshekga should act swiftly in accordance with Section 17 of the Employment of Educators Act, which stipulates that a teacher must be dismissed for sexual assaults on pupils.
Brijraj said the seemingly slow pace in dealing with the cases was caused by administration hiccups as a result of an insufficient budget.
However, Brijraj said the council had revised its system and come up with a new model.
The council operates on an annual budget of R50 million to R60m funded by teachers, and an about R10m grant from the department.
“We have decentralised the operations of the council to involve all parties concerned, and we believe this model will work to our advantage.
“Teachers are struck off the roll for sexual offences. Corporal punishment is also a serious offence, and for other minor cases penalties vary from suspension, fines and counselling,” he said.
The Educators Union of South Africa said progress had been made in dealing with offences by teachers on pupils.
The union general secretary in KZN, Sphiwe Mpungose, said progress was made in dealing with cases against teachers.
“If you cut out politics, you’ll see that there’s progress in dealing with these issues.
“Just last month a school principal was acquitted of a sexual offence after a doctor’s report revealed that a learner who accused the principal of raping her was never touched.
“This goes to show that we cannot be haphazard when dealing with these issues…”
He said once a teacher was found guilty of a sexual offence on a pupil, the union cut all ties with the culprit.
Provincial basic education spokesman Muzi Mahlambi referred all questions to the department’s national office.