Picture: Independent Media
Kimberley -  A massive public outcry has erupted following reports that 30 pupils at one school in the Northern Cape have been impregnated by teachers, after they were allegedly given stipends for unprotected sex.

The Northern Cape Department of Education on Thursday confirmed that the teachers implicated in the alleged impregnation of the 30 girls will be placed on precautionary suspension.

Department spokesperson, Geoffrey van der Merwe, said that the allegations had been brought to the department’s attention earlier this week.

“The Northern Cape Department of Education is aware of the allegations regarding teachers at Bothitong High School and have commenced a full-scale investigation,” Van der Merwe said.

“We can assure the public that no stone will be left unturned during our investigations and all due disciplinary processes will be followed, pending the outcome of the investigation.”

According to Van der Merwe the teacher or teachers implicated will be placed on precautionary suspension immediately “to ensure that they do not interfere with the credibility of our investigation”.

He stated, however, that according to the department’s records, there were 16 pupils at this particular school who fell pregnant over the past three years. “According to the reports, however, 30 pupils are apparently affected.”

“We hope that the pupils, who have made these allegations, provide us with the necessary co-operation to finalise the investigation as swiftly as possible.”

Van der Merwe added that the MEC for Education, Martha Bartlett, would visit the school on Monday.

Van der Merwe was commenting on reports which emerged earlier this week that 30 pupils from the school in Kuruman had been impregnated, allegedly by their teachers.

According to the reports, pupils from Bothitong High School stated that they were being paid stipends for having unprotected sex with male teachers.

“At this point it is still allegations that there are 30 pupils who are pregnant at this school. One of the pupils that we are currently speaking to has admitted that she used to meet up with a specific teacher at the taverns where he would take her after they had been drinking and they would go to his place.

“She has a friend who lived with another teacher at Bothithong High School. She did say that she has heard that there are pregnant pupils at this school, but she could not confirm whether or not they were made pregnant by the teachers.

“The school and education department have been informed and we are still awaiting a response from the department about the situation,” a news report regarding the incident stated.

On Thursday members of the public, together with unions and political parties, expressed outrage following the reports.

Fikile Mtathu, provincial secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu), said on Thursday that the union had learned “with great shock, disappointment and disgust” in the media of reports alleging “serious unbecoming conduct of teachers” at Bothitong High School.

“We want to reiterate our position as a professional and progressive teachers’ union that we acknowledge the trust that society places on teachers as a whole, bestowing us with the custody of their children in order for them to be molded into well-rounded and responsible citizens. Educators are in loco parentis and that role should never be undermined,” Mtathu said.

He added that the union strongly condemned, with contempt, the alleged behaviour of the teachers at Bothitong High School.

“We view these alleged acts as very insensitive, unprofessional and disgusting. Educators cannot use the status bestowed upon them by society to abuse children placed in their care. It is highly immoral to exploit the economic status of pupils by preying on their vulnerability to the extent that school girls are sexually abused, as allegedly happened at Bothitong High.”

The union called on the Northern Cape Department of Education to take swift action against those found guilty.

“Sadtu in the Northern Cape has already instituted its own investigation to ensure that none of our members are involved in the alleged acts, in order to ensure that we weed out these culprits from our organisation and the education system,” said Mtathu.

“We also call on the law enforcement agencies to ensure that they get to the root of these allegations and, if there is substance to them, to bring the perpetrators of these horrendous acts to book.”

“Sadtu Northern Cape commits its unwavering assistance and will support all efforts to leave no stone unturned in exposing this type of unbecoming and immoral behaviour in the education system.”

The DA on Thursday also expressed its outrage, echoing calls for the police, as well as the Department of Education, to swiftly investigate the allegations.

“We welcome the resignation of the one educator, who has reportedly admitted to impregnating at least three pupils. We view this resignation and his admission as very strong grounds for criminal charges of sexual assault to be brought. We trust that he will not be redeployed to another school and we urge the provincial department to rid the school of any person who preys on our girls,” DA spokesperson on Education, Safiyia Stanfley, said.

“There is no place in our schools for any educator who abuses his or her position of authority and forces pupils into sexual relationships.”

She added that the crisis highlighted the need for more to be done by the Department of Education to address teenage pregnancy in local schools. “During 2016, more than 150 pupils fell pregnant in the Northern Cape. When we raised these concerns during the budget debate, Education MEC Martha Bartlett was quick to shrug off responsibility.

“We will be holding her and her department to account to ensure that there is a thorough investigation, with the immediate implementation of consequences for those who abuse our children.”

The Department of Education, however, on Thursday denied that any educator had resigned following the allegations.

Members of the public meanwhile took to social media to express their disgust and outrage

“This is beyond sick,” one person commented, while another called for the teachers involved to be fired. “Can this really be happening? Where are we heading,” was another comment.

Another member of the public pointed a finger at the parents, stating: “Tik, ghanja, mandrax, cat, alcohol, cars, money and luxury. I blame their parents.”

Another person questioned the safety of children at school. “Our children are not safe anywhere,” one parent said.

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