Girls told: Sleep with me or fail

Predatory teachers pressure Limpopo pupils to agree to sex

Schoolgirls from Mphaphuli Secondary in Limpopo are so afraid of being propositioned by teachers that they go in pairs when they visit the staffroom.

“If the teacher proposes and you deny him … he will make you fail,” one said.

The pupils at the school in rural Thohoyandou describe the teachers as “blessers” who sleep with girls in exchange for buying them lunch and awarding them top marks.

Three teachers had relationships with matric pupils last year, while another teacher was in a continuing relationship with a Grade 11 pupil, they said.

While the school principal and governing body declined to comment this week, the claims against the school are not unique.

A survey by an NGO at six schools in the region found that 129 pupils had been “propositioned” by teachers last year. The sex-for-marks phenomenon was so common that the NGO, the Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme, labelled it “sexually transmitted marks”.

At one of the schools, eight in 10 pupils said they did not believe they had the power to say no when a teacher demanded sex.

When the Sunday Times visited the area this week, a matric pupil at another school told how a teacher had mocked her openly in class after she rejected his sexual advances. “He then asked me for my telephone number and I didn’t give it to him but he ended up getting it from my friend.”

He called me his baby and promised to pay for me to have my hair done

Limpopo matric pupil

The pupil, who may not be named, said the teacher invited her out on dates but she refused. “He called me his ‘baby’ and even promised to pay for me to have my hair done at a hairdresser.”

In the survey by the Thohoyandou NGO, 25 pupils at one school disclosed that teachers had made sexual advances this year alone. Some said “learners have pride by sleeping with the teachers”.

One male teacher told the NGO’s researchers: “When educators see schoolchildren as women, they end up engaging them sexually.”

A female teacher said: “Schoolgirls who already have children entice teachers because they have engaged in sex before.”

The principal of this school told the Sunday Times that girls were keeping quiet about being propositioned by teachers because they benefited from the relationship. “They will try to hide it from parents and from us as managers.”

Fiona Nicholson, programme director of the NGO, said: “Even if girls are flirting and trying to seduce educators, obviously the educators are the adults so they have to resist that.

“Too many girls are still having their self-esteem bred out of them from birth in patriarchal areas like ours.

“They are not averse to using their bodies as a means of getting good marks because they have been raised to believe they’re nothing and they are just there to please men and to look after men.”

But Nicholson said the NGO had received encouraging responses from school governing bodies.

South African Council for Educators spokesman Themba Ndhlovu said the problem of teachers propositioning pupils was rife across South Africa.

He said the council would set up a meeting with the Limpopo department of education to discuss the non-reporting of cases.

Basic Education Department spokesman Elijah Mhlanga said predatory behaviour by teachers was “disgusting and disappointing” and viewed in a very serious light.

“Any educator found to be soliciting sexual favours from learners … may face immediate dismissal.

“We appeal to anyone who has evidence to present it to [the council for educators] to conduct an investigation and impose appropriate sanctions.”

Limpopo education department spokesman Naledzani Rasila said: “We can’t say it’s not happening but it must not be generalised as something that is taking place in each and every school.”

Last year Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced a programme to reduce teenage pregnancy by weaning schoolgirls off the “sugar daddy” phenomenon.

The R3-billion campaign targeting women aged 15 to 24 was aimed at reducing HIV infections.

-SundayTimes

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