THREE of the 20 pupils caught up in a sex scandal involving five teachers at the Makhumbuza High School in Umlazi, south of Durban, have dropped out of school.

The pupils cited intimidation, saying they feared for their lives.

A source close to the investigation said yesterday the victims had received threats and failed to attend hearings.

"There is a lot of lobbying in this case," the informant said. "The victims and witnesses are being subjected to a lot of intimidation, which causes delays."

It has been alleged that the five teachers paid the girls R100 each to have sex with them in the school's laboratory after offering them alcohol on several occasions.

One teacher has since been arrested and is out on bail on charges of rape, crimen injuria and sexual harassment.

Umlazi district director Mlu Ntombela told Sowetan yesterday that the three pupils had reported that they were being "victimised" for reporting the rape.

"They were also receiving death threats and chose to drop out of school," Ntombela said.

Ntombela said the challenge was not only to place the victims at safe schools, but to make sure that those schools' programmes and curriculums were the same as those at Makhumbuza so that they can continue from where they left off.

The education department has placed six other affected pupils at other schools. They started attending this week at their new schools.

The five teachers were suspended after the sex allegations surfaced.

One pupil blew the whistle on the teachers in April, prompting more pupils to come forward.

Four of the teachers are waiting for a prosecutor's decision on whether to charge them with rape and sexual harassment.

An internal departmental hearing found the teachers guilty of misconduct, resulting in the matter being referred to the police.