A school secretary says the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) allows staff to bully her after she reported a former principal for sexual assault.
The 28-year-old woman, who asked not to be named, works at RR Franks Primary School in Kleinvlei and says the torment led to her being booked into a psychiatric institution for three weeks.
She says the harassment started in 2018 when she was employed on a contract basis and says the former principal, Johannes Swarts, started sending her text messages calling her “sexy”.
“The second time he harassed me is when he came to me saying he booked a room so we can have sex and asked if I am ready for him,” she says.
“I told him that I did not want to and he just walked out of the office and laughed at me. I went to the deputy principal and told her what was happening and she sent me voicenotes expressing her opinion.”
In August 2019, the woman received a permanent contract from the department and says on a Friday afternoon, the principal sent the staff home early.
“He told me to ring the bell at 1pm for the teachers to leave and I was busy packing up. I went to his office to sign out of the staff book and that is when he hugged me, pushed me against the wall and started rubbing his chest against me.
“He tried to kiss me and I bit my lips but he kept trying. I begged him to please leave me and he eventually let me go.”
The principal was reported to the WCED and later found guilty, but continued to work at the school while he appealed the outcome.
“The circuit manager spoke to me about moving me to another school and I refused. Why should I leave the school after the department found him guilty? They did nothing to protect me,” she says.
“In January 2021, he died from Covid-19 and I returned to the school the next month.
“The staff erected a memorial in the foyer with photos of him and every day I was forced to look at the man who forced himself on me.
“I lodged a complaint and the deputy principal, who is now the acting principal, bullies me every day and looks for issues with my work.”
WCED spokesperson, Millicent Merton, confirms: “The former employee was found guilty of sexual harassment. He left the service of the WCED after his appeal was turned down.
“The complainant was previously offered a place at another school and she declined the offer.”
She added that the memorial was erected before the secretary returned from sick leave.
“The school indicated that there was no intention whatsoever to harass the complainant by placing the memorial in the foyer.
“The complainant did not approach the acting principal about the memorial. She reported it directly to the Circuit Manager in January/February 2021.
“The Circuit Manager requested that the memorial be moved to a spot that the complainant approved of.’ The complainant conveyed her thanks for this intervention.
“The Circuit Manager confirmed that there was no attempt from the acting principal to bully, victimise or intimidate the complainant when she returned to work.”