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Questions over how Paarl educator was allowed to teach after past sexual abuse allegations

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The Al-Azhar Institute of Paarl says it “acted in the best interest” of its learners and the reputation of the school and community in how it handled sexual abuse accusations against one of its educators. A 52-year-old teacher, who was hired earlier this year, is accused of sexually molesting and grooming a female learner at a school he taught at in 2018. VOC News has been in contact with the mother of the alleged victim, who confirmed that charges are being reinstated after they were dropped two years ago. It’s believed the alleged perpetrator had re-established contact with the 17-year-old learner this year, despite being warned to stay away from her.

A warning about the alleged perpetrator first emerged on social media, after a viral video by a young woman relating her own experience of sexual abuse, allegedly by her grandfather – a former principal in Cape Town. News of the alleged sexual abuse has angered the Paarl community and it’s widely reported that the teacher fled the area after he was named and shamed on Facebook.

In a statement issued this week, the Al Azhar Institute’s Board of Governors said they were shocked to learn about the accusations made on social media against the former educator on Sunday, 25 October. According to the board, the educator produced a national police clearance certificate (certified on 16 March 2019) and SACE certificate (dated 10 October 2019) and he was appointed in January this year. Police clearances are in fact only valid for six months.

“The BOG consulted the Muslim Judicial Council and the Western Cape Education Department in the matter and can confirm that the accusations made, refers to an incident that allegedly took place at another school two years ago and not at Al-Azhar Institute of Paarl where no cases have been reported. The accused was not trialled and convicted. The criminal case has nothing to do with the school as the original case of alleged molestation was not reported to and by the school,” said the BOG in a statement.

The board said it had invited the accused to an investigation meeting which he declined. The accused consulted the imam of Paarl on Wednesday, 28 October and tendered his written resignation with immediate effect “in order to protect the good name of the school”. The BOG discussed and accepted his resignation.

However, on social media, the school was criticised for giving the educator an ‘easy way out’ by being allowed to resign without a proper enquiry taking place. Criticism has been levelled at the provincial education department for allowing an alleged sexual predator to creep back into the education system – albeit an independent school.

The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Kerry Mauchline said once the allegations were reported to the department in 2018, it was immediately investigated – however, the teacher could not be charged as he was on sick leave until his contract expired. He was thus not dismissed from the previous school, as alleged.

It’s also emerged that the educator had a similar offence at a school in Kraaifontein in 1998. VOC News contacted the school principal this week, but he could not provide much information, as he was not present at the time.

Nonetheless, the WCED said it did report the 2018 allegations to the South African Council for Educators (SACE) for investigation. The actual outcome remains unclear at this stage.

In terms of section 17 of the Employment of Educators Act 76 of 1996, dismissal is mandatory in cases of a teacher being found guilty of sexual assault or sexual relationships with learners. If an educator is dismissed for sexual offences, they cannot be employed by the education department again, as a block is placed against their name on the PERSAL system.

“Cases are also reported to SACE for investigation to consider withdrawing their registration as a teacher or striking them from the teachers’ roll,” explained Mauchline.

“Any entity, including an independent school, that hires a person to work with children is required to check that person’s name against both the National Child Protection Register and the Sexual Offenders Register. Failure to do so can result in imprisonment or a fine.”

Mauchline said the WCED has provided guidelines on preventing the abuse of learners called the “Abuse No More Protocol” to schools. This outlines the various legal responsibilities of those hiring teachers, as well as guidance on the process to be followed in the event of abuse being reported.

VOC News has contacted the South African Council of Educators and is awaiting comment.

VOC


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