KZN school sex abuse tops the list
That children are not safe in their classrooms is a huge problem
THE problem of abuse in our schools is “bigger than we can conceive”. This is according to the executive director of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa, Basil Manuel, who was responding to statistics from the South African Council of Educators regarding sexual abuse cases in schools.
According to the statistics, KwaZulu-Natal has had the highest number of reported sexual abuse cases in schools for three years running.
In response to a recent parliamentary question, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga revealed that according to the South African Council for Educators (SACE), KZN had the highest number of reported sexual abuse cases – 23 – in 2014/15.
In 2013/14 and in 2012/13, the province also had the highest numbers.
And, while the 2016/17 figures are not out yet, a number of incidents have received widespread media coverage over the last year.
Last month, a 33-yearold Sydenham teacher was arrested for allegedly sending nude photographs and sexually suggestive messages to a 14-year-old pupil.
And last year, a Nquthu teacher was also arrested after he was filmed having sex with girls alleged to be pupils.
Prior to that, a Pietermaritzburg school counsellor was arrested on charges of allegedly molesting a six-yearold boy he was supposed to be providing therapy to.
All three cases are currently before the courts.
Manuel said yesterday that sexual abuse in schools was an “extremely worrying trend”.
And he said teachers were not being properly vetted to see if they were suitable to be in classrooms before being appointed to posts.
“We know this is a huge administrative burden but you just need to vet those who are shortlisted for a post,” Manuel said, “so that reduces the burden”.
Sace spokesperson Themba Ndhlovu explained that they were still finalising their annual report for 2016/17 and auditing their figures to make sure they balanced. But he confirmed they were continuing to field reports of sexual abuse cases from across the country, on a regular basis.
“We are seeing a lot of reports coming in,” he said.
Ndhlovu said Sace regarded these cases as a priority.
“One is too many,” he said. “The high number we are receiving – it’s serious.”
Provincial education spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa said the department had “a tough stance against the perpetrators of sexual relationships with learners” and was working to root these people out.
But, he went on, they needed the public’s help.
“We urge learners who feel that administrators, teachers, or other students are subjecting them to sexual harassment to report these conditions to someone they trust, a member of the family, a member of the community and to the relevant authorities,” he said.
You just need to vet those who are shortlisted