Johannesburg - Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi has suspended a Queens High School teacher amid sexual abuse allegations by current and former pupils at the school.
Lesufi said the department had no choice but to remove the teacher after hearing complaints from past and present pupils at the school on Friday.
On Thursday, a video of former pupil Chanel Gordon-Moyo protesting alone outside the Joburg school went viral and reached Lesufi and the Department of Education officials on social media, who promised to visit the school on a fact finding mission on Friday.
Gordon-Moyo said many women had been sexually assaulted by a school teacher, but the school took did not act, leading to girls calling on her to be their voice.
She said the same teacher had made advances on her as well while she was a learner at the school. She blocked his advances, she said.
On Friday morning, Lesufi, along with officials from the department, Human Rights Commission and non-profit organisation Teddy Bear Clinic, descended to the school.
It is understood that the teacher has been at the school for close to 8 years.
“No teacher must feel they have the right to harass our children when our children are here at school. Here, I have learners, I do not have boyfriends and girlfriends, and anyone who thinks my children are boyfriends, that must get out and look outside the school premises.
“It is within that context that I have removed your Life Orientation teacher out of the school until we have finalised the investigation,” Lesufi told the pupils while addressing them on Friday.
He said all affected teachers, whose names had been named during the fact finding mission, would be investigated. He said only those seemed to be innocent, would continue to teach at the school.
The Gauteng provincial manager of the South African Human Rights Commission, Buang Jones, said the complaints ranged from sexual harassment, sexual abuse and unwanted sexual advances.
“We think that this may be a systemic issue at the school, which is why we want to broaden the scope of the investigation to include other teachers who may be part of this. We are also concerned that the school has been aware of some of these allegations for a period of three years and we understand that through their own internal processes, the teacher was not found guilty,” he said.
He said the school's own internal investigation will be placed under scrutiny as well.
Lesufi said he would also arrange a meeting with the South African Council for Educators to assist in the investigations, while Teddy Bear Clinic has been tasked with providing support, investigating and interviewing all victims who had come forward.
Lesufi also pleaded with the pupils not to make any false allegations against any teachers, as this compromised the struggle for justice of those who were genuine victims.
“Don't do injustice to the struggles to defend our women, don't spread lies, don't implicate people wrongly, don't say things that you yourself know are not there and waste all our time,” he said.