A video has emerged of a teacher at Thandokhulu Secondary School in Mowbray hitting a learner. The same teacher has been accused of sexual assault by learners at the school.
In the video a man can be seen using his belt and smacking it in the direction of a learner, while the learner raises an arm for protection.
Yesterday GroundUp reported on a protest held by learners at the school, where they called for the teacher to be suspended. The learners told GroundUp that in May one of the learners was sexually assaulted by the teacher when a group of choir members slept over at the school because of choir practice.
However, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has found the teacher not guilty, telling GroundUp that: “The matter was referred to Labour Relations by the school principal. Labour Relations have confirmed that the educator was found not guilty of the allegations and the charges withdrawn.”
Kealeboga Mase Ramaru, the deputy head of Equal Education’s Western Cape Office, told GroundUp that they had a meeting with the principal of Thandokhulu on Tuesday to discuss the teacher’s conduct. She said that the principal told them that when he requested reasons from the Department for the not guilty finding, he was told that there wasn’t a policy to release this information.
Ramaru added that a criminal case had also been opened against the teacher and that he is due to appear again in court on Thursday. She said that he had already appeared once in court but the magistrate apparently didn’t stipulate that he should be suspended from his position, pending the outcome of the case.
Ramaru said that the principal was set to call an emergency meeting today with the learners to discuss the matter.
As for the corporal punishment charge, Ramaru said that they were in the process of preparing evidence that would be presented to the principal.
GroundUp has seen a statement written by the learners where they say they “feel threatened by a teacher’s presence … after his sexual harassment case”.
“We feel that both the school and WCED has failed us as students because the teacher is still teaching at the school and the victim attends his classes,” the statement says. “We now feel vulnerable and that the school should take action and assure us and other students that we are safe.”
Corporal punishment in schools has been banned since 1997 but still remains a problem. According to the 2016 General Household Survey, about 10% of learners reportedly experienced corporal punishment in 2016. These rates were highest in the Eastern Cape where it sits at nearly 18% and lowest in the Western Cape and Gauteng where about 2% of learners said they had experienced corporal punishment.
In Equal Education’s 2016 social audit of schools in the Western Cape, they found that learners were beaten at 83% of the schools sampled and that this was a daily occurrence at 37% of the schools. “At more than 90% of schools with corporal punishment, teachers use some type of weapon,” stated the survey.
“Principals and teachers are the main individuals to whom learners are meant to report violent events. The reporting systems and structures that the WCED has in place are severely undermined by a situation in which learners in such a high proportion of schools can expect to be beaten by the same individuals entrusted with their safety,” said Equal Education.
GroundUp is continuing to investigate this story.
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