‘Our teachers want sex’
In the wake of a scandal at a school near Kuruman, Msindisi Fengu uncovers a sordid tale of teachers sexually assaulting pupils they’re meant to protect
Karabo* clutches her fingers as she recounts how, whenever she saw her history and English teacher in the streets of their village, he would tell her: “I want to have sex with you.”
These episodes went on for eight months. Each time she happened to pass by the teacher, who was drunk, on the streets of her village in the Northern Cape, he would tell her the same thing.
But the 15-year-old girl’s problems did not end there. Last month, her maths teacher allegedly sexually assaulted her after promising her a lift to visit her mother, whom she misses terribly.
Karabo is not alone. In July, her schoolmate Nomsa* (18) was almost raped by her English teacher at his home.
The two pupils, who attend a high school outside Kuruman, were behind the charges laid against two of their male teachers. The charges sparked a scandal, in which it was first reported that about 30 schoolgirls had been impregnated by their teachers.
But the two pupils, along with other girls City Press spoke to, as well as their principal, say this is not true. They say 16 girls have fallen pregnant there in the past three years, and that not even school-ground gossip has revealed any teachers as the fathers.
The provincial education department is investigating the charges brought by the two pupils.
Karabo, wearing grey school pants and Nomsa, in a black-and-white striped school dress, sat side by side at Nomsa’s home this week narrating their ordeal as Nomsa’s grandfather looked on.
Nomsa only decided to reveal what had happened to her after Karabo told their life orientation teacher that she was being sexually harassed by two of her male teachers.
This week, three teachers were suspended from the school by the Northern Cape education department.
Two of the teachers, aged 35 and 53, were arrested and appeared in the Kuruman Magistrates’ Court this week on charges of attempted rape and sexual assault.
The other, in his early 30s, is being investigated by the department for sexual misconduct.
Karabo and Nomsa were the only pupils at the school who complained. They also said some of their male teachers were well-known “blessers” in their village.
Karabo first tried to tell her grandmother what happened, but later complained to her life orientation teacher.
“I was scared, but I gave my granny clues about what happened. I always asked her what she would do if something like this happened to her loved one. I decided to tell my life orientation teacher everything,” she said.
The teacher summoned the male teachers to a meeting and confronted them. One allegedly confessed to harassing Karabo, but the other denied it. He allegedly phoned Karabo later that day and began laughing; she cut the call.
Karabo said the teacher, whom she had viewed as a parent and a friendly figure, had texted her, asking her to meet him one Sunday afternoon in August in front of a tavern in the village. She got into his car.
“He kissed me. He touched me. I stopped him. I told him that I want to go,” she said.
“He opened his pants zip ... I was shocked. He asked that we do it once and I said I won’t. He said: ‘Let’s do it the next day.’ I said: ‘No.’ He said he’d been wanting to sleep with me.”
Karabo then jumped out of the car and ran home. Two months before that, Nomsa had gone to her English teacher’s house after her sister asked her to fetch some baby food that the teacher had picked up for her in town. Nomsa arrived at about 7pm.
“When I got there, he was marking scripts. He put them on the table. He started wanting to make love to me. He wanted to sleep with me. I refused. He told me that I’m smart, intelligent and clever, and that I must stop acting like a child,” she said.
“He didn’t sleep with me, [but] he touched me.” Nomsa said she pushed him away and ran out of the house.
After their ordeals, the girls now have another problem to contend with – they want their arrested teachers to return to school, or replacements for them to be found quickly, so they can prepare for exams.
They worry that the year will pass without their being able to write the exams.
Nomsa’s grandfather said he was concerned about how the girls would be affected.
“It is too painful. What will be the future of these children? We send them to school so that, when they grow up, they can help us. But now they are abused in school. This is too much.”
* Not their real names
PLACE OF SHAME Bothitong village, outside Kuruman. Two teachers have been arrested on charges of attempted rape and sexual assault