8 February 2019

South Africa: Pretoria Primary School Teacher Facing 7 Counts of Sexual Assault

A Pretoria teacher, who is alleged to have inappropriately touched learners at Valhalla Primary School in Centurion, is facing seven counts of sexual assault.

The 55-year-old man, who can't be named because he has not pleaded, appeared briefly in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on Friday.

Initially, police and the Gauteng education department said that about 23 learners from the school had laid complaints against the teacher.

He was arrested on Thursday after he handed himself over to the police. The offences surfaced in January when members of the Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) visited the school to teach learners about abuse.

Pupils confided in the officers, alleging that the suspect was inappropriately touching them. The officer informed the principal who alerted the district office.

Parents expressed anger on Wednesday saying that they only became aware of the alleged crimes on Tuesday afternoon. They blamed the school for failing to inform them.

The teacher joined the school in 2017 after he was appointed. He was then permanently appointed in January 2019 by the department.

The incidents dates back to 2017 and 2018, according to police spokesperson Colonel Lungelo Dlamini.

On Friday, Gauteng education department spokesperson Steve Mabona pleaded with parents to allow law enforcement to do their work.

"We are pleading with all stakeholders involved in the matter to stay in their lanes. Parents must desist from coaching their children. We don't want them to contaminate our case. We have lost many cases before due to contamination.

"We don't want to see this matter struck off the roll. We are happy about the movement of this case so far. The department has started with disciplinary processes against the teacher and he has been removed from the school," Mabona said.

Trauma counselling

Former AB Xuma Primary scholar patrol guard in Soweto, Johannes Molefe, 58, was acquitted in December 2018 of three counts of rape and 11 of sexual assault in the Gauteng High Court sitting in the Palm Ridge Magistrate's Court.

In handing down judgment in that case, acting Judge Peet Johnson commented that "suspicion that someone has done something [was] not proved beyond a reasonable doubt".

The department is continuing offering trauma counselling to learners at the school.

"We encourage metro officers to continue teaching our learners about abuse. If it was not because of them, we wouldn't have known about these incidents," Mabona said.

He urged all schools in the province to appoint liaison officers who would be able to quickly detect when learners were being abused.

The department was also investigating why teachers, who allegedly knew about the abuse, didn't alert the police.

Magistrate Ignatius Du Preez postponed the case until February 13 for further investigations and a possible bail application.

Gauteng NPA spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane said the State had asked for a postponement in order to check if the accused had previous charges and convictions against him.

Mjonondwane encouraged parents of other learners who could have been abused by the teacher to contact the investigating officer.

News24

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