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Minister warns rogue teachers

by Sunday Express
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Shocking reports of teachers who sexually abuse their students and particularly target orphans

makabeloMohau Serabele

There has been an upsurge in cases of teachers arrested over sexual relations with their students over recent month — a situation the police say has become cause for concern.

Earlier this month, a 51-year-old Berea teacher was arrested for allegedly sodomising his 10-year-old pupil, and has since been released on bail while police investigations continue.

In another incident, a 43-year-old teacher was released on M500 bail by the Leribe Magistrate’s Court after being arrested for fondling the breasts of one of his students on several occasions.

According to the Officer Commanding Leribe police, Senior Superintendent Molahlehi Letsoepa, the expatriate teacher from Kenya is, in fact, facing two charges of sexually molesting his students.

In the other incident, the same teacher reportedly caressed the breasts of another female student and fondled her private parts, and is due to appear in the Leribe Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday this week.

“Teachers are important people in our communities so we all expect them to behave in a manner that fits their responsibility and status in society,” said Senior Superintendent Letsoepa, adding the police had since launched a campaign in Leribe to raise awareness in schools about issues of child-molestation.

“Our aim is to make both teachers and students aware of the provisions of the Sexual Offences Act of 2003. This way,
we hope many of them would be enlightened.”

Meanwhile, the Minister of Education and Training, Makabelo Mosothoane, has warned teachers against abusing their students, and said perpetrators would face the full might of the law.

Mosothoane, who was speaking during the Education For All (EFA) campaign held in Leribe on Friday, said her ministry was concerned about increasing reports of teachers sexually abusing their students.
“I want to warn all teachers to stop this deplorable behaviour. It is criminal and tarnishes the moral fibre of our society,” Mosothoane said.

The minister urged school management not to tolerate teachers found committing such “terrible” acts.
“A school is expected to be a place of joy for all students. It is their second home where they must find protection and not be abused.
“My ministry will work hard to ensure that students across the entire country are protected.”

Meanwhile, a Leribe parent, `Makeitumetse Ntho, said it was shocking to hear that some teachers were molesting their students.
“It is totally unacceptable; the responsibility of the teacher is to protect children and not hurt them. Such teachers must be sent to jail and must never be allowed near a school ever again, if convicted.”

However, the Chief Education Officer in Leribe, Sekhotseng Adams, said cases of sexual abuse by teachers on schoolchildren were uncommon in the district, adding however, this did not mean such abuse was not taking place.
Adams said in 2014, the district only had one reported case of an expatriate teacher from Leribe.

She said there was also one case in 2013 of a teacher who was convicted and sentenced to eight years in jail for the rape of a 17-year-old student in Tsikoane, Leribe.
“The fact that we have not had many reports does not mean that such incidents are not happening. They do happen but sometimes they are not reported,” she said.

Although she could not explain why some cases were not reported, Adam said she could speculate that some Basotho parents and students preferred to sweep such sexual misconduct by teachers under the carpet for fear of tarnishing the reputations of teachers and schools.

Adams said many parents and students were too scared to report cases of sexual abuse in schools, but emphasised that there could be many more cases that go unreported in schools across the country.
Adams said over the years, her ministry had discovered that in most cases, children who fall victim to sexual abuse by their teachers were usually orphans.

On the issue of violence against students, Adams noted that the Ministry of Education and Training had since banned corporal punishment.
“But there are still teachers who administer this form of punishment in local schools,” she said, adding in many cases, teachers who administer corporal punishment were not even aware that they were breaking the law.

However, some female students in Leribe who spoke to the Sunday Express on condition of anonymity said some students actually enjoy having sexual relations with their teachers.

A 17-year-old high school learner from Hlotse told the Sunday Express that she has friends who are in sexual relations with their teachers.
“The reason why they do this is because the teachers spoil them with money and sometimes they take them out to nice hotels and guest houses,” she said.

She was however quick to say such relations are always closely guarded secrets.
“Nobody in the school should know about it because it can be very dangerous if the parents or the school principal finds out,” she said.

The 17-year-old, who is in Form D, further said such cases are very hard to discuss because they involve teachers.
“You know, sometimes the male teachers involved are married and it is not easy to go around telling people that teacher so-and-so is in a relationship with a student.”

Another student who did not want her name to be published said she had a relationship with her teacher for two years.
She said the relationship only ended in August 2013 when the teacher was transferred to another school.
“I got into the relationship with him because he tricked me. He had asked me to give him my mobile phone number and from then on we started seeing each other secretly,” she said.

The girl however said she was glad the relationship had finally ended.
“I was not free when I was with him, but now I am free. It would have been really bad if my parents had found out.”

Adams said in an effort to protect students from abuse, the Ministry of Education had introduced life skills as a subject in schools.
“By teaching young people life skills, we hope to empower them so that they can be able to resist sexual advances made by their teachers,” she said.


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