Parents bring school to halt over sex-abuse allegations

09 February 2017 - 08:55
By Matthew Savides

A crisis committee has been formed to calm tension at the Mpephosi High School in Empangeni, northern KwaZulu-Natal, after parents brought teaching to a halt over claims that teachers were sexually assaulting pupils.

An empty classroom. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock An empty classroom. File photo.

This is the latest in a string of allegations against schools in the province.

In response to a question by DA provincial MP Mbali Ntuli, the education department revealed that between November 2014 and November 2016 20 teachers or principals were suspended on sexual abuse charges. Mpephosi was not one of the schools included in the response to Ntuli's questions.

Teaching has been disrupted at the school since Tuesday, after parents went to the institution and accused the principal of protecting errant teachers.

Department spokesman Muzi Mahlambi confirmed that teaching had to be called off yesterday as the protests continued.

"Our officials, with SAPS, went to the school [yesterday]. A crisis committee was established to get the school working again. We are also, as a department, conducting our own investigations into the allegations," said Mahlambi.

He said parents were being encouraged not to disrupt the school.

"We are capable of dealing with issues where we are supposed to do so," he said.

The IFP also urged parents to allow teaching to continue.

"We have raised our concerns many times in the past about allegations of pupil-teacher relationships that are affecting education and have led to young girls being exploited by educators. We now find the situation where the parents claim to have exhausted all avenues to put an end to these relationships between teachers and pupils.

"While we respect the parents' desire for quality education for their children we would advise that teaching and learning at the school should not be disrupted," said provincial MP Thembeni Madlopha-Mthethwa.

She also took aim at the principal and the department.

"It is most troubling that the principal of the school is alleged to be protecting those teachers involved in these affairs with schoolgirls. If this is found to be true, severe action must be taken against the principal. We also question what role officials from the department of education in that district are playing to bring stability and investigate these allegations by the parents."