Sacked teacher wins appeal

Sacked teacher wins appeal

MASERU – THE Ombudsman Advocate Leshele Thoahlane has ordered that a high school teacher who was fired last year for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a student be reinstated.
Motseki Qhala will now walk back into St Patrick High School in Mohale’s Hoek, a year after he was sent packing.
Advocate Thoahlane last Friday ordered the school principal, the board, Mohale’s Hoek Education Department and the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) to reinstate Qhala unconditionally.
Thoahlane ruled that the school had violated principles of natural justice when it assumed the role of judge, prosecutor and complainant when it heard his case.

He also found that during the investigations, the deputy principal was used as a secretary but he also became the tribunal’s chairman during the hearing.
“It was wrong. The deputy principal adopted his own minutes and used them to make determination on the case,” Thoahlane said.
“It is surprising that he did not find this odd.”

Qhala had approached the Ombudsman seeking help after the TSC rejected his proposal to retire early with the prospects of finding another job at another school.
He had agreed with the school that he would resign and part ways with it amicably to protect his reputation of being a long-serving teacher.
But he discovered that the school and the Mohale’s Hoek Education Department had put spanners in his plans and as a result the TSC would not allow him to retire early.
Also he found that he would lose some of his benefits.

The Ombudsman found that there was a conspiracy between the school and the Mohale’s Hoek Education Department against Qhala.
He ordered that Qhala’s case should start afresh under a new panel that will be neutral.
The Ombudsman found that, although there could be some truth in the allegations that he made sexual advances on the female student, the school did not do enough to establish if indeed he was guilty.

He said some of the evidence submitted before him and the oral evidence that was presented were contradictory.
Qhala was accused of asking a Form B pupil to help find a teaching job for his friend. He was allegedly begging for sex when the girl was trying to help.
The girl alleged that Qhala begged her to allow him to “just allow him to press it against my thighs”.

The two were in the teacher’s house within the school premises at around 4am in January this year, raising questions on why the two were alone at such an unusual hour.
Qhala has denied the allegation that he was ever with the girl at that odd hour.  He has said these are lies intended to tarnish his reputation.

He said he helped the girl after he learnt that she had some personal needs such as food, unaware that the girl was flirting with him.
By the time he learnt of the intentions of the girl, it was too late. She had already spread lies about him saying they were lovers.

The girl failed to convince the Ombudsman that she was Qhala’s lover. The Ombudsman found that the girl’s only witness was her friend who did not have sufficient evidence that Qhala solicited sex from the student. “The decision that Mr Qhala was guilty had been based on the evidence by the learner he was accused of being in a relationship with and her friend,” Thoahlane said.

“The latter’s evidence was purely what she had been told by (her friend). There is no independent piece of evidence of the said love affair,” he said.
“She was unable to provide any evidence that they were indeed in love,” he said. Thoahlane found that the girl loved Qhala “but there was no evidence that Mr Qhala had any intimate love interest in her”.

He also found that the girl was “not able to point any love proposal by Mr Qhala except that they had exchanged cellular phone numbers which to her was enough to conclude that there existed a relationship”. She also alleged that Qhala touched her breasts and requested her to allow him “to just put it on her thighs” but she refused.
She was shocked and saddened by this.

“The question is: how can one be saddened by a sex request from his/her lover?”
The Ombudsman found that previously there were some complaints from parents that some teachers at the school, Qhala included, were having sexual relationships with students.
“There were rumours making rounds at the school and its environs that Mr Qhala was a paedophile having love affairs with learners,” Thoahlane said.

“This was confirmed by the Deputy Principal and a member of the TSC who appeared before the Ombudsman. They both testified to this effect,” he said.
“These rumours were however, not substantiated although they appear to have greatly influenced the St Patrick High School management into concluding that Mr Qhala was a paedophile who should be removed from the school.”

Thoahlane found inconsistencies in the evidence of the two girls. The girl who was said to be in a romantic relationship with Qhala alleged that he invited her to Mount Maluti Hotel, while her friend testified that he invited her to Castle Rock Guest House. The friend said Qhala asked the complainant girl to make breakfast the morning he had called her to his house but she never mentioned it in her evidence, she even denied it as a lie before the Ombudsman.
Qhala promised to give thepost a detailed response to a hail of allegations levelled against him.

Senate Sekotlo

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