SINGAPORE — An adjunct teacher accused of having sex with a secondary school student claimed on Thursday (9 May) that the sexual relationship occurred after the alleged victim turned 16. The girl later became pregnant with the man’s child after the couple broke up.
The 41-year-old man first got into an intimate relationship with the then 15-year-old student when she was in Secondary 4.
A year later, the girl, who is now 19, found out that she was pregnant with his child - three months after they broke up. At the time, the girl had already left her secondary school and was in a polytechnic.
The teen decided to keep the baby, who is now about two years old. The baby’s gender was not revealed in court.
The man, whose name cannot be revealed due to a gag order, is standing trial to 10 charges of having sex with and nine charges of using his fingers to penetrate the vagina of an underaged person. One count of penetrating the girl’s vagina with his fingers on 10 August 2015 was withdrawn during the course of the trial.
When asked by his lawyer Trent Ng about the dates of the charges he faced, which were between August and September 2015, the man claimed that the girl had “likely mixed up” the events before and after her 16th birthday and was confused about the dates of their sexual encounters.
The man taught science at the teen’s secondary school in the northeast of Singapore. He was assigned to teach science to the girl’s class in 2012 when he first met her.
Taking the stand on Thursday, the man said the girl began texting him about her problems in class as she wanted to get the opinion of a fellow Christian, according to the teacher. They would exchange texts daily through WhatsApp.
At the end of 2013, he approached the girl to ask her if she wanted him to be her physics tutor. She agreed to be tutored by him along with at least one other girl and the sessions were later held on weekends at his flat, located near their school.
When asked to describe how the girl was as a student, the man said she was “quite a good student” but “needy” as she texted him daily.
Teacher’s mother disapproved of unsupervised tuition with girls
The tuition sessions were under the supervision of the man’s mother, who disapproved of him giving tuition to female students without her around, according to the man.
The tuition sessions, which were two hours each, were held on weekends as the man’s mother was away caring for her daughter’s child on weekdays. At the time, he was still teaching in his school.
Despite the mother’s concerns, however, the relationship between teacher and student became closer over the next two years, when the man suffered from a chronic cough problem.
As the man’s condition forced him to absent himself from school, the girl became increasingly concerned and asked after his health. She then asked to visit the man at his house.
“I was reluctant because my mother is not available on weekdays. If I allowed her to visit me, it would defeat the purpose of (having my mother around). I want to avoid misunderstanding with my mother,” said the man.
The teacher claimed that he eventually relented in order to keep an eye on the girl, as he had received reports that she was not focused on her studies.
However, Deputy Public Prosecutor James Chew argued that there was no reason for the girl to visit the teacher's flat on weekdays as she still saw him in school and on weekends for tuition.
"There’s no reason for you to have another (weekday) session just to ensure that she does her work properly. You had ample other opportunities to do so. Your versions of how these visits came about really does not make sense," DPP Chew said.
The prosecutor suggested that the teacher, not the girl, had initiated the home visits on weekdays, to which the man disagreed.
Man confessed his feelings to her
Between end-June and early July 2015, the then 15-year-old girl began to visit the man’s flat on average once a week when the man’s mother was not around.
During these visits, the duo would talk and lunch together. At times, the girl would listen to the man sing and play religious songs on his electronic keyboard.
“I feel touched by her gesture that she showed me this care and concern because of my health condition,” he said.
“I also remember a conversation about my social life, she was concerned that I would grow old and lonely and offered to take care of me when that happens,” he added.
In mid-July of 2015, the man confessed his feelings for the girl and he testified in court that their feelings for each other grew.
Initially, the girl struggled with the possibility of a romantic relationship between a teacher and student but she accepted the man’s feelings and they became a couple by the end of the month.
Girl avoided sex due to fear of pregnancy, says man
The contact between the duo also became more physical in nature, progressing to hugging and kissing during the girl’s visits. Eventually, the two became more intimate with both stripping down to their underwear on some occasions. The man claimed he would then rub his penis against the girl’s vagina through their underwear.
According to the man, the duo avoided having sex because the girl was fearful of getting pregnant and that it was a violation of her religious belief against premarital sex. She was also aware that it was a crime for the man to have sex with a person under 16. The girl would only turn 16 later that year, on 29 October.
As part of his defence, the man pointed out text messages where the girl expressed her fears of getting pregnant as a teen.
“To her teenage pregnancy is a scary thing. She said her whole life will be just gone like that,” said the man.
The girl’s worst fear was realised a year later, when she became pregnant with the man’s child.
First possible sexual penetration a “milestone event”
The man maintained that no sexual penetration occurred until around 28 December 2015, almost two months after the girl’s 16th birthday.
Calling 28 December 2015 a “milestone event”, the man recalled that the girl had stayed the night with him. She also allowed him to see her without her spectacles, something that she had been reluctant to show even to her friends and classmates.
“I remember taking off her spectacles before kissing her. She did not stop me from doing that, so this is a milestone in our relationship because she had faith and trust in me,” said the man.