Teachers having sexual relationships with learners is illegal

In 2016, a video of a KwaZulu-Natal teacher filming himself having sex with a learner surfaced and the teacher was suspended from the high school in Nquthu. 

The provincial department discovered that the man had slept with many other learners at the school. 

“He was accused of luring them into his cottage where he was doing all these unspeakable things,” Mthandeni Dlungwana, the MEC of education, said in a statement at the time. 

In 2018, six teachers and a principal were accused of having sex with learners at a high school in Flagstaff in the Eastern Cape. 

The Daily Dispatch reported that the teachers were allegedly demanding sex from grade 11 learners in exchange for promoting them to grade 12 

In 2019, three teachers from a high school in Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape were arrested on charges of raping learners. The allegations were that the trio would lure the boys into their homes under the pretence that they would help them with their schoolwork, but would give them alcohol and then have sex with them. 

On Sunday, the KwaZulu-Natal department of education said in a statement that it had suspended two teachers for “having a love affair with a learner”. One of the teachers from Umlazi Comtech High School was allegedly caught in a toilet kissing the learner. 

It never stops. There are many more of these cases but they do not get media coverage or are never discovered by the authorities. 

The South African Council of Educators has for years stated in its annual reports it struggles to conclude disciplinary hearings in rural areas in particular of teachers who had sexual relationships with children because parents take bribes, sometimes in the form of groceries, from the teachers. 

Once a child steps into the schoolyard, teachers take on the role of being parents to learners. They are responsible for the wellbeing of children while they are at school. 

So, to put it bluntly, if a teacher has sex with a learner they are sleeping with their own child. This behaviour is disgusting and criminal. 

The statement by the education department on Sunday said the learner was having “a love affair” with the two teachers. It is not a love affair. It is sexual harassment and abuse. The power dynamics between a learner and a teacher do not qualify for this to be called a “love affair”. Teachers exercise authority over learners. 

The Sexual Offences Act criminalises sex with a person under the age of 16 by a person over the age of 18. The Act further “sets out that sexual acts are not voluntary if they result from an abuse of power or authority”, states a report by activist organisation Equal Education, titled Sexual Violence in Schools. 

The learner in this case is 18, but it is still an unequal relationship between a schoolgirl and teachers.

The two teachers in this case are adults who preyed on a learner and coerced her into their dirty fantasies. They knowingly broke the laws that govern the profession, which make it clear that at no point should a teacher and learner have an inappropriate relationship.

The KwaZulu-Natal education department must ensure that the two teachers do not go anywhere near any school. Hopefully the South African Council of Educators will scratch the two off the registrar of teachers. 

Children already deal with a lot because they have to ensure that they do well in their studies; they should not also have to deal with adults who prey on them. It is unspeakable behaviour.

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Bongekile Macupe
Bongekile Macupe is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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