• School affairs blur the line of ethical dilemmas and abuse of power
Cape Town society has been abuzz about a sexual affair between a woman teacher and an 18-year-old pupil that was discovered recently at one of the most elitist high schools in the Western Cape province.
As the student is of age, nobody can do anything about it except perhaps shame both teacher and student. However, in this day and age when there’s a new scandal at every tap of a key on your smartphone, shame isn’t what it once was. Also, in a big city, there are so many distractions that this will be no more than a two-day wonder.
The story will be forgotten by most, except those intimately involved in it, the student, the teacher, who has since left her post, and the student’s parents, who are probably mortified, but have to contend with the possibility that their young man is no longer a chaste boy.
There will be those who smirk and suggest that maybe he was not chased by the teacher, but in fact did the chasing.
If Joseph Kamaru was still alive, he might have revived his 1960s hit, ‘Ndari ya Mwarimu’ (the Teacher’s Darling).
But the serious people will want to think about what a social worker who spoke on the radio here in Cape Town said, “Men struggle so hard to speak up because when they talk about their experience, it gets totally watered down and made to be something they should be proud of.”
Meanwhile, in the next-door province, the Northern Cape, a rather more straightforward case of statutory rape also took place last week. In the infamous whites-only town of Orania, a trainee teacher was in the dock for having sex with a minor at a school there.
This teacher, if found guilty, will go down in infamy in the small, close-knit conservative community that makes up Orania. Unlike the soon-to-be-forgotten story in Cape Town, in Orania, people will be talking about this scandal for years.
I can bet you that if the local radio station in Orania was to dare try and be funny and play ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me by the Police’ over the next few weeks, it might be too soon.
I can imagine the lily-white citizens of Orania turning a shade of puce in embarrassment commingled with anger at hearing the lyrics of that song, and I, for one, would join them.
In the first case, we could probably debate the issue of ethics. Although when you stop to think about it, you might find yourself agreeing with a social worker who argued on talk radio, “Even if it's above the age of consent, there is still a lot of dynamics at play, this was a schoolchild.”
However, in the second matter, there is not really any wiggle room. It is a straight up-and-down matter of abuse of power. The teacher was the adult and knew better.
This last story reminded me of a tale I was told of a teacher at a primary school who had made it her business to sexually initiate the teens in her care. I wonder how damaged those boys, now fathers themselves, are today?