Many pupil-teacher sex cases not reported by principals, SAHRC told

'Only those who are bold enough to implement policy are the ones who come forward and report': SA Principals' Association's Mashudu Ramulumo

19 May 2021 - 18:12 By ernest mabuza
Some principals do not report cases of sexual relationships between teachers and pupils for a number of reasons, including fear of victimisation by the teachers. Stock photo.
Some principals do not report cases of sexual relationships between teachers and pupils for a number of reasons, including fear of victimisation by the teachers. Stock photo.
Image: SAMORN TARAPAN/123rf.com

There were a number of reasons why principals did not report cases of sexual relations between teachers and pupils to the education department.

These include the principals' fear of victimisation by perpetrators and unwillingness by pupils to report these relationships.

This was a submission made by Mashudu Ramulumo of the SA Principals' Association at a SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) hearing in Limpopo on bullying, corporal punishment and sex between educators and pupils in schools in the province.

Ramulumo admitted to the allegation that principals were not reporting sexual relations between teachers and pupils.

“Yes, it is true. So many cases are not reported. Some principals do not have the right skills to compile a case to report to the department,” he said.

He said some principals feared victimisation by the teachers involved. “Only those who are bold enough to implement policy are the ones who come forward and report.”

Ramulumo said between June 2020 and February this year, 58 teachers were removed from the roll of educators because they had been found guilty of sexual misconduct.

He said other principals went about dealing with complaints of sexual misconduct the wrong way.

“Day before yesterday, a principal reported to me there was an educator in a sexual relationship with a grade 12 pupil. He said that particular teacher was in a sexual relationship with a grade 12 learner the previous year and she had passed.”

Ramulumo said in the first case, the principal had called the pupil and educator and they told the principal they were in a sexual relationship. “This was in front of the school governing body.”

He said there was an agreement that the matter be left at that stage. “The principal said he did not report to the department. He should have written a report to the circuit manager.”

Ramulumo said the principal had indicated he would take this year's matter to the school governing body. “He is repeating the same mistake.”

He said some principals do not know what to do with these cases when they were presented to them.

“We do not have to deal with the case. We have to take a case to relevant structures.”

Another challenge was the time it takes to deal with the cases. He cited a case reported to the department last year of a pupil who was allegedly sexually abused from grade 9 to 12 and who reported the allegations last year. He said though the case was reported to the department last year, it was still busy with the case.

“The learner has passed grade 12. She has gone to [a] tertiary [institution] and the case has not been finalised.”

Ramulumo said that was the reason most of the principals tended not to involve the department and instead involved social workers.

The Congress of SA Students in Limpopo said an educator, if found guilty of having a sexual relationship with a pupil of the school where he or she is employed, must be dismissed.

“The dismissal should be mandatory whether or not there was consent. Such zero- tolerance policies are consistent with many laws that criminalise adult sexual relationships with minors in general,” Cosas provincial secretary Sello Mahladisa told the hearing.

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