Disabled pupils cry rape

UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT: Filadelfia School is embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal. Pic . Bathini Mbatha. 16/02/2010. © Unknown.
UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT: Filadelfia School is embroiled in a sexual abuse scandal. Pic . Bathini Mbatha. 16/02/2010. © Unknown.

NINE staff members, including teachers, have been accused of raping disabled pupils at a school north of Pretoria.

The sexual abuse of pupils at Filadelfia School in Soshanguve for the visually impaired, hearing impaired and physically challenged pupils has reportedly taken place over recent years.

Three cases of abuse have already been confirmed.

It is claimed that some of the victims, who fell pregnant as a result, were expelled, while their abusers continue being employed at the school.

Four of the alleged abusers are teachers, three are security guards and a cook. Another teacher resigned in December after reportedly admitting to sexual misconduct.

The alleged rapes apparently occurred in the mornings when pupils and teachers were meant to report for morning assembly.

The guards are accused of going to the girls' dormitories.

It is claimed that the teachers under suspicion would bunk morning assembly and instead send pupils SMSes instructing them to report to class - where they were then abused.

One deaf pupil was allegedly abused daily by eight staffers for about two years.

In August last year she decided not to return to school for the third term.

Her mother accused the school management of having failed her as "they did not even make me aware of my daughter's ordeal".

"I am prepared to take it to the highest court. I am going to see officials from GDE's labour section who visited the school following the complaints. I am not returning home until I get to the bottom of this."

The Gauteng department of education confirmed that allegations of sexual misconduct were being investigated.

Spokesperson Charles Phahlane said his department had issued letters to the alleged perpetrators - eight of whom are still working at the school - to explain their versions of events "before the possible drawing up of a charge sheet".

Phahlane said they were investigating "all allegations", including that of the principal protecting the alleged perpetrators. He said criminal cases would not be opened until the department and parents discussed the matter.

Sowetan also interviewed several former and current pupils of Filadelfia, as well as their parents and members of the school governing body. Staffers declined to talk to Sowetan about the allegations, saying they were warned not to discuss the matter with anyone.

Pupils at the school say they lived in fear of being abused.

"We do not even know how to respond when some of the teachers call us because we are afraid of being abused," said one of them.

"Learners decide to change subjects to avoid being taught by some of the alleged perpetrators."

Another pupil said she was regularly raped by two teachers during school hours - for almost a year.