Somber mood at school following the rape of a teacher by former pupils.
Teachers live in fear after ‘rapist’ ex-pupils attack
One of the arrested suspects had been taught by the young teacher who was robbed and then raped
The rape of a high school teacher in Marken, just outside Lephalale in Limpopo, has instilled fear among female teachers and pupils in the village.
The teacher was asleep in the house she rents when two men broke in on Friday, abducted and raped her before leaving her tied to a tree. Both suspects, who have been arrested, are former pupils at the school where she teaches.
The principal of the school, which cannot be named in order to protect the victim, said the incident has left everyone shattered.
“We had planned to have a small celebration on Monday when the Grade 12s finished writing their final paper, but this just made us to cancel everything. No one is in a celebratory mood. We are just shattered,” he said.
Like most schools in remote areas, the teachers at this school are from faraway places and lodge in back rooms of nearby houses in the village to be closer to work.
“Most of our female teachers live alone and they now fear they will be the next target,” the principal said.
He said the teacher, who has been with the school for almost five years, is loved by pupils at the school. “She is a very young person and came with a very positive energy that made her click very well with the pupils,” he said.
The principal described the teacher as someone who loved her work and put her pupils first. “She always comes in early and offers extra lessons to those that are struggling. She is really a good-hearted person.”
Limpopo police spokesperson Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe said that once the case was reported police worked around the clock to ensure the suspects were put behind bars as soon as possible.
“We were worried about the safety of the victim, and our specialised and dedicated team worked very hard to catch the alleged perpetrators,” Ngoepe said.
The suspects had been arrested less than 24 hours after the incident.
Being in an impoverished area, the principal said the school often has disciplinary problems with pupils. In the past teachers would bear the brunt when their belongings were stolen from the staff room. “When there is no one in the staff room they just walk in and help themselves to whatever they find in the bags of the (female) teachers,” the principal explained.
In most incidents the perpetrators would be found in possession of the stolen items and the school usually dealt with the matter internally, without the intervention of the provincial department or the police.
One of the suspects, who had been taught by the victim, repeated Grade 8 three times and did not complete matric.
“Each year he would drop out of school and every January his grandfather would come and plead with us to accept him back.”
Limpopo education department spokesperson Sam Makondo said the department was horrified that former pupils are suspected of committing such a horrendous crime. The department was providing counselling for the victim.
Makondo said that although the incident did not occur on school premises, it was a cause for concern. The department expected a collaborative approach from parents when it came to addressing discipline and pupil safety.
“Parents need to check what is inside the bags of their children daily. It must be a joint effort between the department and parents to ensure that our schools are safe,” Makondo said.
According to the Ngoepe, the teacher was allegedly kidnapped from the back room she rented in the village on November 23. “They then drove with her in her vehicle to a nearby ATM, withdrew an undisclosed amount of cash from her account and then drove to nearby bushes and that is where they both allegedly raped the victim.”
He said the two then allegedly tied the teacher to a tree. “She struggled for almost the whole night but managed to untie herself and was able to walk to the main road. She flagged a passing vehicle and told the driver what happened to her. She was taken to the police station where a case was opened,” Ngoepe said.
The two appeared in court on Monday and have been remanded in custody. They will appear in court again next Monday for a formal bail applicaton, which Ngoepe said they will oppose.
The police were also profiling the suspects to see whether they were linked to other cases.
Attacks on teachers are increasing in SA. Earlier this year basic education department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga described the attacks on teachers as a crisis.
In September alone more than three cases related to attacks on teachers by pupils were reported. An 18-year-old boy assaulted a Grade 12 teacher at a Limpopo school and poured water over her face and body after she confiscated his cellphone.
In the same month a 15-year-old boy from Eldorado Park Secondary, south of Johannesburg, was arrested after pointing a gun at a teacher.
Also in September, Gadimang Mokolobate, 24, a maths teacher in North West, was stabbed to death, allegedly by a 17-year-old pupil. The pupil was said to have been angry that the teacher had scolded him the previous day for jumping the food queue.
“We believe these attacks are under-reported. The minister is extremely shocked and disappointed that a learner could resort to such an extreme act of violence towards a teacher who was simply doing his job,” Mhlanga said about the killing of Mokolobate. Earlier this year, Kingston Vhiya, a 42-year-old teacher from Bosele Middle School near Kuruman in the Northern Cape, was stabbed to death at his home by a 15-year-old pupil who accused him of failing him.