The Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) has dismissed a KwaZulu-Natal teacher for sexually abusing a pupil over a period of two years.
Santosh Maharaj was charged with misconduct after he sexually assaulted the pupil and told her he was “madly in love with her”.
The teacher, from Woodview Primary in Phoenix, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The pupil, now 15, said in testimony she was constantly abused by the teacher from the age of 12. She said the harassment started with a love letter proposal in 2018 which she rejected.
She testified that Maharaj was persistent to the extent that he befriended her family and took her on outings with his family.
The pupil said the teacher continued to make inappropriate remarks towards her and later took her to a hotel where they were supposed to have a discussion. But when she arrived, he started touching her inappropriately.
The pupil testified that the teacher touched her breasts and private parts on top of her clothes and later touched her underneath her clothes. The teacher told her to sit at the edge of the bed and he removed her pants and shoes. He then sexually assaulted her.
“She noticed that he was climbing on top of her. She jumped and moved away, put her pants up and they left. She testified that when all this happened, they were not in a relationship,” arbitrator Humphrey Ndaba said in his finding.
The pupil said she was scared to tell her guardian about the ordeal because the teacher was a family friend.
In July, the teacher took the pupil to his home where he penetrated her.
“Afterwards he told her that he was not happy how she acted the first time. They continued for a couple months to have sex on weekends,” said Ndaba.
“He will give her guardian an excuse to take her out of the house on a pretext of chess training and tournaments. He said he will fix issues with her guardian if they have sex more often and she agreed.”
She testified that she confessed after her guardian found a cellphone with suspicious messages from the teacher.
In response, Maharaj argued that no specific dates for the alleged sexual acts were submitted and the girl's evidence did not include times and locations but was “just her word of mouth without corroboration”.
The teacher said the pupil’s guardian wanted him to marry her because of his inheritance from his late father. He apparently refused to marry the pupil and the guardian then threatened him, saying she will make his life difficult and make sure he loses his job. He did not take the threats seriously until August 2020 when a criminal case was opened against him.
He said his wife and pastor could testify to his good character.
In his ruling, Ndaba said the pupil was steadfast, credible and reliable as a witness.
“At the arbitration, [Maharaj] failed to show remorse but insisted on his innocence. He went further to rub salt to the wound by attacking the character of the witness,” he said.
“In my view the employer has no option but to ensure that schools are safe for children by eliminating all possible risks which could harm learners.”
The teacher was dismissed with immediate effect.