Sex scandal: HIV/Aids scare hits Obuasi school
When the knock on the door sounded a second time, a woman responded.
“Is this the residence of Mr. Seth Amponsah?”
“You are at the right place, but he is taking his bath,” she said cheerfully.
“Okay. Then I will come back later.”
“Who are you?” she asked as the visitor turned to go.
“Are you from the school?”
“No, I’m from town,” the visitor said, hurrying away before he was faced with the uncomfortable task of disclosing the reason he wanted to see her husband.
It was almost midday. Thursday September 20, 2018. At the residence of the housemaster for House 5, Obuasi Senior High Technical School, Obuasi in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.
Fifteen minutes later, the same woman answered the knock on the door and told her husband, “He is back.” She went inside, came out with a chair and beckoned the guest to follow her into the shade of the tree in front of the house. She placed the chair so the guest would sit facing the house. Before making for the door she said:
“Please, sit down and wait for him. He is wearing something.”
As she entered the room, her husband, Mr. Seth Amponsah, emerged from the room. He was wearing a loose black pair of sports shorts with white stripes on either side. A pair of black leather sandals adorned his feet. His white-stripped shirt had its entire buttons undone except the last two at the bottom, exposing a soft chest and breasts of a man who appeared not to have worked out to firm up that part of the body.
Beads of sweat dotted the front of his neck. They left tiny lines in their wake when they swelled, burst into tiny streams and journeyed downward to unknown destinations. He is a tall figure who stands in the boundary between a lanky man and a well-built man.
He had awoken from a nap. Classes were in progress, but he was not in school. He said he was not well.
Like his clothes, Mr. Amponsah wore a casual look, one that did not give the faintest clue about how he felt or what he thought. He was calm and collected, like one who would easily pass a polygraph test. If the introduction by his guest and the mention of the scandalous topic shook him, he did not show it. That confident and composed look did not change until much later in the conversation when he had to fumble, pause and think or ask questions before answering some questions posed to him.
The introduction was brief. The main and only subject, which necessitated the meeting, was broached. The conversation was underway when his wife returned with another chair, this time for her husband, who had indicated to his guest he was okay discussing the subject on his feet. She placed the chair facing her husband’s guest and turned to go.
She was moving away but her feet appeared to have a mind of their own. They moved with hesitation. Her contorted face and strained ears appeared to be interested in the conversation, which had momentarily muted because of her presence. At the door, she hesitated further before she shot a curious look at the two men who had resumed the conversation as she drifted away from them. Her husband’s back was turned against her, but her gaze met that of her husband’s guest. Looking like someone torn between entering the room and staying, she finally made it into the room.
Mr. Amponsah was speaking. He was telling “his side of the story” as his guest had requested after introducing himself as a journalist with the Multimedia Group who had come from Accra, over 200 kilometres away, to investigate an alleged sex scandal in the school involving him.
“My brother, I can tell you that it is not true,” he said with a convincing confidence, his facial expression corroborating his words.
Mr. Seth Amponsah, popularly known as Setho, had been teaching in the school for fourteen (14) years, he said. Before coming to Obuasi Senior High Technical School, he had taught for six years at Ola Girls’ Senior High School, Kenyasi. Had he been a man who could not tame his libidinal urge, he argued, it would have surfaced in a girls’ school, not here.
“Massa, I’m not a weak person,” he stressed. He would repeat this sentence about half a dozen times before the meeting ended.
Throughout the conversation that afternoon, Mr. Amponsah maintained his innocence. But as the questions and answers went on, he confirmed almost everything his accuser had alleged about their relationship. He contradicted himself. And revealed worrying details about his conduct as a teacher who enforced (or was supposed to enforce) discipline among the students without discrimination. The possible reason he gave to back his claim of being targeted, was defeated by how the alleged sex scandal in the darkness of his office became the subject of discussion in broad daylight.
Allegation of sexually assaulting his student
It started with a meeting on the football pitch. Seventeen-year old Akua (not her real name) had a female friend whose parents sent her money and provisions through Mr. Amponsah, the housemaster. Akua was a first year student. One day, after school, Akua said her friend asked her to accompany her to Mr. Amponsah to collect money, which her friend’s parents had sent to her through the teacher. When they got to the housemaster’s residence, his wife said he was on the football pitch so they went there to meet him.
“When he saw me, he told my friend, ‘So you have such a friend and you have not introduced her to me?’” Akua recalls this was Mr. Amponsah’s first remark when he saw her.
It was not clear why he said that, but Mr. Amponsah would admit Akua was “beautiful”.
He asked her name. Introductions followed. And a hearty chat ensued between the teacher and the two teenage girls as they walked to the teacher’s office. When they got to Mr. Amponsah’s office, Akua said she realised the office, especially the store area, was in a mess.
“I asked why the place was so untidy and whether there was no one sweeping the office,” she said. Mr. Amponsah, according to Akua, explained that some boys were assigned to clean the office but they were not doing a good job.
“Would you like to be cleaning here,” Akua recalls him asking. “I told him I would not mind sweeping his office.”
At preps (in the night when students in the boarding schools study on their own) that evening, Akua said she was told Mr. Amponsah wanted to see her. When she met him, he told her he had spoken with Akua’s house prefect and she had been assigned to sweep his office.
Akua did not only sweep the office. Mr. Amponsah often went to call her from her classroom to study in his office at night when her colleagues studied in their classrooms. “He said he didn’t want me to ‘prep’ in the classroom so he would call me to come and ‘prep’ in his office in the night,” Akua said.
When she was learning one night, said Akua, Mr. Amponsah entered the office, put out the light and started touching her intimately.
“I wriggled out of his control and he went to put the lights on,” she said. “He realised I had frowned so he asked whether I did not like what he did. I told him I didn’t like that. I said how could he do that to someone he had just met? He assured me it would not happen again.”
According to Akua, when Mr. Amponsah showed signs that he still wanted to have his way with her, she confided in one of the teachers living in the quarters next door nicknamed Episcopal (Mr. Bismark Boasu Yeboah). Mr. Yeboah, Akua said, agreed to come over to the office whenever she was there and Mr. Amponsah entered.
Mr. Yeboah has confirmed that Akua confided in him about Mr. Amponsah’s advances. He tried to find out if Mr. Amponsah had done anything to her beyond that attempt and she said no. He then advised her to keep away from Mr. Amponsah. After some time, Mr. Yeboah asked Akua whether Mr. Amponsah was still pestering her and she said he had stopped calling her. Mr. Yeboah assumed that nothing untoward had happened or would happen. But he was wrong.
According to Akua, Mr. Amponsah once entered the office in the night when she was studying alone and sexually assaulted her.
“I don’t know whether he had prepared for the act. While we spoke, he went to lock the office, put out the light and threw a mattress on the floor. He lifted me onto it. I lost control. I could not shout because it appeared too embarrassing. So he…,” Akua narrated, her voice falling with her gaze.
“Did he use a condom?”
“When it was over what did he tell you?”
“He did not tell me anything.”
Akua said she stopped going to study in Mr. Amponsah’s office after he forcibly had sex with her. When studying in the classroom one evening, she said the teacher came to call her out and asked why he had not seen her in a long time.
“I told him I was not feeling well, and he asked how he would be able to reach me when he brought me food or wanted to give me money since I had stopped coming to study there. He gave me a phone with a sim card and often called me on that line.”
Students are prohibited from using mobile phones in the school so a senior called Najat Ibrahim once seized Akua’s phone. For this reason Mr. Amponsah could not reach her when he called.
“When he later came to ask why the phone was always off, I told him a senior had seized it. He confronted the senior and took the phone from her and brought it back to me.”
How the scandal leaked
Akua said she did not tell anyone about what Mr. Amponsah had done to her, but because the teacher often came to class in the evening to call her out, her colleagues suspected there was something more intimate between them than a teacher-student relationship. Her housemistress asked her to stop cleaning Mr. Amponsah’s office without a reason. Mr. Amponsah confirmed the housemistress’ unexplained instruction to Akua. The rumours spread like wild fire until one day the senior housemaster and head of sports, Mr. Yakubu Mambo, called her to interrogate her on her relationship with Mr. Amponsah.
Mr. Mambo had overheard two final year students complaining about how male teachers were sleeping with the girls with impunity. When he asked the girls, they started to mention a number of girls and the teachers who had slept with them. Some had completed school while others were still in school. One of the pairs they mentioned was Akua and Mr. Amponsah.
When Mr. Mambo started his investigation, there was a stir among the male teachers. He announced that names of some teachers who had amorous relationship with students had been dropped in the suggestion box by some final year students who were leaving the school. This struck fear among the male teachers. Some panic-stricken teachers even approached him and asked whether their names were part of the list.
When Mr. Mambo called Akua, he asked her to tell the whole truth about what existed between her and Mr. Amponsah. Akua initially hesitated, but she finally let the cat out of the bag.
“He said if I didn’t tell the truth and they found out, I would be in trouble so I told him what happened,” Akua said.
When the Senior Housemaster called Mr. Seth Amponsah and asked him, he denied. Mr. Mambo then reported the case to the headmaster and Mr. Amponsah was summoned to appear before the management of the school.
“Initially, he denied but when the committee pressed on, he admitted sleeping with the girl,” a member of the school’s management who wants to remain anonymous revealed.
Mr. Amponsah’s Denial
Mr. Seth Amponsah said the allegation was not true. He said a group of teachers had ganged up against him. He said these teachers had coached Akua to fabricate the sex allegation against him.
“Massa, human beings are dangerous,” he said.
“Why do you think the teachers would go to this extent to try to destroy you?”
He said the teachers were envious of the many roles and positions he held in the school. He was a housemaster, an assistant entertainment master, the school team manager and assistant coordinator for examination among others, he said.
“Even if I want to sleep with girls, I have a car,” he said, pointing to his blue Toyota Matrix. “I can go to town and do it and come back,” he said, emphasising that the office was not conducive for a sexual intercourse. “Let’s go and let me show you the place,” he said, getting up and leading the way to his office.
Mr. Amponsah’s office is a small space sandwiched between a long classroom block and a teacher’s quarters. All the three are one long, demarcated block. The entrances to the classrooms face the east while the entrances to the office and teachers’ quarters face the opposite direction. This means the front of the classroom is the back of the office and the teachers’ bungalow. It’s difficult for students to know what goes on in the office because they do not pass in front of the office to the classroom. The main entrance to the teacher’s quarters is next to the office. The blue door to the teachers’ bungalow was locked at the time of our visit.
There were three tables and chairs in the office, which were used by three different teachers. At the time, Mr. Amponsah said two teachers were using the office. The office is further demarcated into two. The inner space was used as a storeroom for brooms, hoes, musical instruments – and a mattress.
“Massa, how can you bring a student here to have sex while hotels are there and other places are there?” he quizzed and headed for the door to lead his guest back to his bungalow. “Let’s go so that we talk.”
As he stepped out, a woman was approaching the office and stopped when she saw him emerge.
It was his wife.
“I didn’t know where you were…”
“We were coming here,” he told her in Twi.
“He is sick so I’m monitoring him,” Mr. Amponsah’s wife told her husband’s guest. “I don’t know you. All of a sudden I saw you going with him so I’m monitoring.”
“I’m not a harmful person,” came the reply, with a smile.
Feeling somewhat assured that her husband was safe, Mr. Amponsah’s wife retraced her steps home. The look of worry was unmistakably inscribed on her face.
She appeared to be in her thirties. She had well-carved legs and the kind of breasts that do not fall with age. Her backside is about twice or thrice that of the girl her husband allegedly had sex with.
When the scandal broke, there was a conscious effort to keep it from her, one teacher said. “But she lives on campus. And you know people talk. She’s worried about the whole issue.”
As Mrs. Amponsah walked ahead, her husband changed his mind and went back to the office. He wanted the conversation to proceed there instead of going home. He maintained his innocence, insisting the girl had been coached to frame him up. But he confirmed a number of things Akua said:
He confirmed he had assigned Akua to sweep his office. He confirmed he granted her access to study in his office at night. He confirmed he had bought her food from town and had given her money.
Akua said he had promised to help her pass her examination. He denied and swore he had no password to the examination questions when they were set. Later in the conversation, when he heard that Akua denied ever receiving examination questions from him, he said if he wanted to give her questions, he could have done that because he was in the position to know the questions for the various classes before the exams.
Mr. Amponsah also denied he had given Akua a mobile phone. When the description of the phone was mentioned, he said he had seized a number of phones from students and kept them in his office. He walked to open a drawer and brought out a phone.
“These are some of the phones I seized,” he lifted the phone.
“So you’ve never spoken to her on phone?”
“No. No. No! I spoke to her on phone.”
He said Akua could have taken one of the phones he had seized from the students, but he did not give it to her. Asked why he had to speak to her on phone when she was on campus, he said Akua often went home and he wanted to know how she was and where she was.
He confirmed ever confronting a senior and taking the phone back to Akua. He said Akua had said the phone was her sister’s so he didn’t want her to have problems at home. That was why he had to intervene and get the phone back to her.
His main argument, which he stressed a number of times, was that the office was not a convenient place to have sex. Standing up and emphasising his innocence, he asked: “You are a man. Can you have erection in this environment and have sex with a girl?”
His guest smiled.
Mr. Amponsah repeated the question, expecting a response. His guest laughed mildly.
“Wofa, when you’re making love to a girl, doesn’t she talk?” he asked, insisting that if it had happened, others would have heard it. “If she had said I took her to town, it would have been different.”
“Yes, she’s beautiful, but why [would I do that]?” …. If I knew this would happen, I would not have shown so much kindness,” he said, shaking his head.
When asked whether there were times he was in the office alone with Akua at night, he said the only time he remembered was when she came there one night. But as soon as he entered, another teacher also came and sat there so “I didn’t even have time to speak to her one-on-one before I left.”
Akua had mentioned the said teacher was “Episcopal” in whom she confided. Episcopal has confirmed ever being present after the Akua had confided in him, but he could not tell whether this was the same day Mr. Amponsah referred to.
The alleged affair between Akua and Mr. Amponsah has been described as a tip of the “iceberg” by the MP for Obuasi East Constituency, Dr. Patrick Boakye-Yadom (MD) who is also an old student of Obuasi Senior High Technical School. The drama that followed the revelation and attempts to cover up have divided the teachers and thrown up other revelations of an HIV/Aids scare in the school.
End of Part One. The concluding part of the story will be published tomorrow
JoyNews’ Manasseh Azure Awuni has spent weeks speaking to persons involved in the story or connected to it. The information contained in this story is from sources, even where it is not expressly stated. The narration is based on multiple interviews he conducted and anonymous sources that spoke with him as well as his own observations.