CAPE TOWN - A former Wesfleur Primary School teacher in Atlantis accused of sexually grooming a senior phase pupil by allegedly requesting explicit pictures and videos from her via Instagram has been found guilty and dismissed with immediate effect.
The teacher, identified as LJ Davids in the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) arbitration award, did not attend the proceedings.
In a letter addressed to the Council a few days before the proceedings, Davids’ attorney Zubin Naidoo stated that his client would be absent because he intended to resign.
He said this was in no way an admission of guilt, but Davids believed his participation in the proceedings would be prejudicial to his preparations in a criminal case against him involving the pupil.
“Our client fails to see the rationale behind the intention of the (Western Cape Education Department) and its insistence on proceeding with the arbitration hearing,” he said.
But Arbitrator Jacques Buitendag ruled it was not unfair for the inquiry to continue in Davids’ absence, saying the WCED offered Davids a chance to be heard and to defend himself.
The 14-year-old pupil testified under oath that in mid-2021, Davids sent her an invitation via Instagram and she accepted.
She explained that Davids passed her in the school corridor and allegedly told her that he wanted her to send naked pictures of herself.
In another conversation shared on October 22 at about 9:11pm, the pupil apparently sent a Tik Tok video of herself to Davids showing an uncovered belly.
Davids responded that “I know you wanna send me more”.
“On October 28 the learner sent another Tik Tok video to Mr Davids with the words “No one. What should I send”. On October 29 Mr Davids responded with “Really??”. Then on October 30 the learner sent Mr Davids naked pictures of herself, exposing her breasts.The learner testified that she sent the pictures because Mr Davids was bothering her at school,” said Buitendag.
She further testified that Davids wanted her to send him something related to her “under parts” but she refused.
The pupils’ mother testified under oath that this came to light after the pupil's sibling found the Instagram conversations on her phone.
“I am persuaded by the evidence presented by the learner and by the Instagram communication between them. Mr Davids used the significant age gap between him and the learner, his experience and his authority as an educator, to exercise inappropriate power or control over the learner. He was deceptive and manipulative in the way he went about grooming the learner.
“The learner entered into this fake loving relationship or friendship with Mr Davids but he slowly gained more control over the learner to the point when he persuaded her to expose herself to him. He sexually groomed the learner,” said Buitendag.
A copy of the arbitration award will be sent to the South African Council for Educators (SACE) for the revoking of David’s teaching certificate, and to declare him unsuitable to work with children.
WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the teacher was no longer under the department's employment.
“We cannot allow for such behaviour and will investigate any allegations that are reported. The WCED encourages all learners to report such incidents to our Safe Schools hotline. Educators that are informed or made aware of such abuse or harassment are obliged to report the matter to the WCED in terms of the abuse no more protocols.”
Hammond said one teacher was found guilty of “sexual harassment” between January 2021 to January 2022.
Action Society spokesperson Ian Cameron said: “If a teacher does make him or herself guilty of something like this, regardless of the times when committed, it's not only illegal but it's predatory. It’s preying on vulnerable children. Even if the child played along in a flirt, or started i,t the responsibility lies with adults. There's a lot more that can be done to protect minors, but unfortunately minors very often have access to social media from a very young age.”
Education activist Hendrick Makaneta said he believed there were more incidents of this nature that were kept hidden.
“We need to make awareness an ongoing campaign in society broadly so that many learners can feel free to come out and speak about such misconduct by teachers. Stringent measures must be placed to combat ill discipline within social media.” said Makaneta.”
To report such incidents contact WCED Safe Schools hotline at 0800 45 46 47