Johannesburg - The Pretoria school teacher who was fired for taking three pupils to get penis piercings said the boys wanted one after they noticed his piercing in the shower at the school after swimming practice.

He insisted there was nothing sexual about the incident but has admitted his conduct was wrong.

Pieter Oberholzer was dismissed as the drama teacher at Willowridge High School in Pretoria last Monday following a disciplinary hearing into the piercing incident. The piercings - which are also known as Prince Alberts - were done last November.

“There’s nothing sexual about a Prince Albert, it was a bonding incident between the boys,” Oberholzer said.

He said the pupils first got the idea when they saw he had the same piercing while he showered after swimming practice last year.

“We were preparing for Midmar (Mile swimming race) and I had a shoulder injury so I went to shower to warm up,” he said.

“Two of the boys wanted to check on me and walked in while I was drying my hair and I immediately covered up,” he added.

He said they “hounded him” for months about helping them get a Prince Albert and he finally decided he would help them find a reputable piercing studio.

“I agree 100 percent that I should not have got involved, I was trying to make sure they were safe. The guys threatened to pierce themselves,” he said.

The 57-year-old teacher said two of the pupils were over 18 at the time of the piercings and the other was 15 but turned 16 “days after” the piercing. Oberholzer said he volunteered to have another Prince Albert before them to show the pupils that it was safe.

Once he realised his mistake a few days later, he told the school’s principal what happened and then the younger boy’s parents.

He claimed the parents accepted his apology and said they would not press charges.

They even allowed him to take their son to get a tattoo.

But a few weeks later he said an unknown staff member at the school went to the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) and filed an anonymous complaint.

This led to a board of inquiry by the GDE and he was suspended in February pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing which also acted as a pre-dismissal arbitration by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.

He was eventually found guilty of three charges of misconduct, including the piercing and tattoo incidents, as well as telling a lewd joke to a female colleague.

The GDE welcomed the dismissal and said the teacher was not a departmental employee, but was appointed by the school governing body (SGB).

SGB chairman Stefano Bruni said he could not divulge any information about the pre-dismissal hearing.

“I’m also terribly sorry for the stress it has caused my family and friends,” Oberholzer said, adding that he had no immediate plans for work as he was eight years from retirement. “I have no idea what I’m going to do, I am jobless at the moment.”

Oberholzer is also a member of the Afrikaans folk band Die Grafsteensangers, described as a “comical entertainment group”.

The Star