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Durban - While the SA Council for Educators sets about determining whether a convicted sex pest teacher is still fit for the profession, provincial education authorities on Wednesday blamed parents for refusing to co-operate in bringing culprits to book.
Parents from disadvantaged backgrounds sometimes accepted bribes from teachers to quash charges of sexual abuse, Sihle Mlotshwa, a spokesman for the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education, said.
“Once they receive the money, the parents will refuse to co-operate,” said Mlotshwa. “What we also find is that there are parents who take pride in the fact that their children are dating teachers. So in most cases, parents are the problem in cases going forward.”
Mlotshwa said the department had been unaware that one of its teachers, Mongameli Gcwabaza, had been convicted and sentenced for sexually assaulting a nine-year-old schoolgirl from a Taylor’s Halt primary school five years ago.
“We know a case was opened, but as the investigations continued, the mother of the child had refused to co-operate with the police and the case did not go further.”
It took the intervention of the public protector to get the 38-year-old teacher - who had returned to his post after been convicted - dismissed, after the department finally held a disciplinary inquiry last month.
Gcwabaza had been given a five-year suspended sentence by the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court in May 2010.
While the trial was taking place, he was transferred to the department’s circuit office, but was later sent back to the school.
According to the public protector’s office, a parent at the school then raised the alarm. The complainant, unconnected to the sexual assault case, sent the public protector a copy of the charge sheet, confirming Gcwabaza’s conviction and sentence.
The SA Council for Educators, the teachers’ regulatory and professional body, had also not heard of the matter – until it was brought to its attention by the Daily News yesterday.
All teachers are required to register with the council, and once the body strikes a teacher from its roll, he or she cannot be employed by the department again.
Council chief executive, Rej Brijraj, said would now conduct its own investigation, as well as a disciplinary inquiry to determine whether Gwcabaza was fit to remain in the profession.
“The court has made its decision, the department has dismissed him, now we must also conduct our own investigations into this case,” he said.
Brijraj said they would investigate Gcwabaza’s case from the beginning to find out what happened. “From that investigation, we will be able to determine if he is fit to be a teacher.”
Teacher unions have slammed the department for allowing Gwcabaza to remain in his post for so long.
The department had been irresponsible, said Anthony Pierce, the KZN chief executive of the National Professional Teacher’s Organisation of SA.
Pierce said the biggest problem was that the department’s human resource staff was not informed of the developments.
“If they knew this, he (Gcwabaza) would have been out. He also defeated the system, because he should have been up front about his conviction. However, there are many other cases such as his, and they are all a result of the department not checking up these cases.”