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 and that 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,” said Ramulumo.
Ramulumo said in the first case, the principal had called the pupil and educator and they told the principal, in front of the school governing body, that they were in a sexual relationship. 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. He indicated that he would take this year’s matter to the school governing body. He is repeating the same mistake,” he said.
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.