Joburg teacher suspended over allegations of sexual assault and abuse
A life orientation teacher at a Johannesburg high school has been suspended following allegations of sexual harassment and grooming.
Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi visited the school on Friday after he was tagged in a video posted on Twitter showing a former learner carrying a placard that read: "Your daughter is not safe. The principal is protecting the predator."
Speaking to girls at the school, Lesufi said he had taken an "unusual" decision to convene a meeting with all the girls at the school because "something bad is happening at the school".
"With the evidence that I have, I have no choice but to convene you as girls so that you can assist us to solve the problem that is happening here at your school," Lesufi said.
He said his department would work with the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to investigate cases of sexual assault and grooming against the same teacher.
"As a department, we take issues of sexual assault and sexual violence very seriously. It was on my birthday that I was tagged when a brave young girl was outside your school raising serious concerns about certain teachers in the school. I could not ignore that message. Whether correct or not, we must test it," Lesufi said.
He said pupils should be treated as children and not girlfriends and boyfriends.
"Anyone who thinks my children are boyfriends and girlfriends, that person must get out and look for boyfriends and girlfriends outside the school premises."
He said the life orientation teacher had been removed from the school pending finalisation of the investigation.
"We are also going to go through the list of everyone that has been mentioned. If they are innocent, they will come back. But if they are not innocent, they will not teach at any school in this country or outside this country because they are not fit and proper to be in front of our children," said Lesufi.
He encouraged the pupils to speak out about any form of abuse at the school.
"Any person who interferes with your freedom, you must not hesitate to report that person and we will take action immediately."
But he also warned pupils against making false accusations against teachers or anyone.
A 19-year-old former pupil alleged that she had been sexually assaulted and groomed by the same teacher during the five years she attended the school.
"He belittled me and I’m sure it has happened to some of you. I don’t want to go into detail about my story because it is personal and very sensitive. I hope me coming here and using this platform will help you guys to get the courage to actually speak up about your injustices because I know for certain that there are those among you that have gone through a similar thing," she said.
"If he’s hurt you, if he’s violated you, I encourage you please do speak up."
SAHRC Gauteng manager Buang Jones said there were a myriad of allegations levelled against the teacher at the school.
"The allegations concern sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual abuse and unwanted sexual advances," said Jones.
He said the SAHRC was concerned that some teachers were aware of the allegations over the years.
He could not confirm the number of cases they had received and said there might still waiting for more pupils to come forward.