Cape Town - Angry pupils at a secondary school in Mowbray are calling for a teacher who they allege sexually assaulted pupils and beat another with a belt to be suspended.
On Thursday pupils shut down the school, demanding answers from the Western Cape Education Department.They are also accusing the department of negligence and taking their cases lightly.
A statement written by pupils said: “School is meant to be a place of safety for learners. The reported incidents of sexual harassment and corporal punishment by a teacher at Thandokhulu High School has left us feeling unsafe at school.
“The same teacher is also accused of hitting a learner with his belt. This incident was caught on camera, this is only one of the many incidents.”
Police spokesperson FC van Wyk confirmed that a sexual assault case was registered for investigation at Mowbray SAPS.
The teacher was arrested and appeared in court last week. He is still in custody. On the day of his appearance, dozens of pupils protested, calling for him not to get bail.
Deputy head of Equal Education in the Western Cape Mase Ramaru and founder of the Injabulo Anti-Bullying Project, Lindiwe Dhlamini, condemned the allegations.
“In April a Grade 8 pupil from the school was left traumatised and embarrassed after he was allegedly sexually assaulted by his teacher,” Ramaru said.
“A school choir had a camp and the teacher lured him to a private room where he started touching him.
“The pupil reported the incident to one of the school’s Representative Council of Learners who told another teacher at the camp.
“The teacher advised the pupils to keep quiet as nothing would be done by the school,” Ramaru said.
Dhlamini said they are aware that the school reported the case to the department district office. But the department dismissed the case, seemingly because there was not enough evidence.
Western Cape Education Department spokesperson Paddy Attwell said it launched a full-scale probe into the allegations when informed of them in May.
“Unfortunately, the department could not complete the investigation because of contradictory evidence, and because two pupils refused to testify,” Atwell said.
“Our labour relations officials will continue in their efforts to resolve this case.
“The learner concerned has refused counselling, but the department will continue to make counselling available.
“The WCED views all allegations of sexual misconduct extremely seriously and investigates all allegations rigorously.
“In this case, unfortunately, the department was unable to proceed but we have good communication with the school,” said Attwell.
In a statement, Equal Education said the pupils at the school were “engaged
in a brave struggle to secure a safe and dignified schooling environment for all, sparked by numerous reports of sexual assault and corporal punishment by a teacher there”.
“MEC (Debbie) Schäfer and her department have put the school principal in an impossible position by failing to suspend the teacher, by failing to conduct a serious investigation, and by failing to respond to the learners’ request that WCED representatives come and address the learners on their investigation,” it said.