Outrage over freed teacher 'sex pests'

THE parents of the 13 schoolgirls who laid sexual harassment charges against their teachers are livid after the charges were dropped.

THE parents of the 13 schoolgirls who laid sexual harassment charges against their teachers are livid after the charges were dropped.

Four of the five Makhumbuza High School teachers who were accused of sleeping with students have been cleared of the charges.

Three teachers were found not guilty of the sexual harassment charges by the department of education internal investigation hearings, while the charges against the fourth teacher were dropped.

The KwaZulu-Natal department of education said the internal investigations and hearings had concluded and found the four teachers not guilty of the sexual harassment charges.

But the parents of the schoolgirls are unhappy. Spokesperson for the parents Sbu Chili said that the verdict came as a surprise to them.

"We are shocked that 13 girls had come forward as victims of sex and then nothing relating to sex is contained in the statements," he said.

"When asked during the hearings, the children claimed to have had no sexual contact or relationship with the teachers. This is confusing.

"We as parents are calling for the department to launch another investigation into why these teachers were 'framed' for something they did not do.

"Why would 13 children complain about the same thing and then change their statements?"

The statement from the department said: "An internal investigation into allegations of sexual harassment levelled against five Makhumbuza High School educators has been concluded.

"The investigation has cleared three of the five educators, charges against one educator were dropped."

Department spokesperson Mbali Thusi said the report had been given to the MEC for education Senzo Mchunu and superintendent-general Cassius Lubisi.

Allegations of sexual harassment first surfaced in April when a group of 13 girl pupils allegedly made the startling accusations that they were sleeping with teachers in the school laboratories.

A rape case against one of the teachers is still before the court and he is out on bail.

Soon after this the department suspended the five teachers and launched an investigation.

The teachers remain suspended on full pay until the department acts on the recommendations of the investigation.

The SA Council of Educators has conducted its own probe, which is not yet complete.

Thusi could not reveal the recommendations of the investigation.

Two weeks ago, the lawyer representing the four teachers, George Moloko, declared his victory in the matter but the department denied the acquittal and claimed that the hearings were still under way.

In a media briefing held at the South African Democratic Teachers Union offices in Durban, Moloko said that none of the complainants had made a statement that any of the four teachers had sexually harassed them.

He also said that during the hearings when pupils were asked if they had had sexual relations with the accused teachers, they denied this and denied the contents of the statements.

In a media statement Moloko asked that if students had made no such statements, how could the teachers be charged with the sexual harassment offences?

Moloko was not available for comment yesterday, but had earlier indicated that the next step was to wait for the department to respond to lifting the suspensions before negotiating for the teachers to resume teaching at the school.