Row rages over cases of sex abuse at schools

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - SHAIN GERMANER

WITH rage sur­round­ing the Park­town Boys High sex­ual abuse case now start­ing to sim­mer, a pri­mary school fac­ing a sim­i­lar scan­dal has al­legedly had an­other pupil sex­u­ally as­saulted.

Scottsville Pri­mary in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg was in the me­dia spot­light last year when one of its coun­sel­lors was ar­rested af­ter 10 chil­dren be­tween the ages of 5 and 13 were al­legedly mo­lested by him.

While his crim­i­nal trial has been set down for July 31, last week par­ents were sum­moned by the school to be in­formed of yet an­other al­leged rape at the school.

A state­ment re­leased by the school con­firmed an at­tack al­legedly had taken place on May 24, say­ing: “The prin­ci­pal is­sued a no­tice of sus­pen­sion to the em­ployee in­volved on the same day, re­ported the mat­ter to the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion and in­formed the par­ents of the learner of what had al­legedly hap­pened.”

“Fol­low­ing the meet­ing with par­ents on May 26, we have en­listed the ser­vices of an ex­ter­nal se­cu­rity com­pany to make sug­ges­tions and fur­ther en­hance the se­cu­rity sys­tem at the school, which was up­graded fol­low­ing the al­leged tragic events of 2016,” the state­ment read.

A par­ent of three of the vic­tims in the first abuse case said she was en­raged to hear of the new at­tack and ac­cused the school of fail­ing to pro­tect its pupils. “This is a sign that no proper safety mea­sures have been placed at the school,” she said.

The same par­ent said af­ter her chil­dren had been sub­jected to years of abuse at the hands of the coun­sel­lor, the school had still not of­fered to as­sist in pay­ing for trauma coun­selling for the chil­dren. Two other par­ents also con­firmed the school’s lack of as­sis­tance, de­spite prom­ises it would help them.

Prin­ci­pal Nh­lanhla Mkhize di­rected queries to school gov­ern­ing body head Suben Pil­lay.

Pil­lay de­nied claims the par­ents had not been given coun­selling as­sis­tance, but was un­able to say when and how the coun­selling had taken place, say­ing the KZN De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion had “been in charge of that”.

The par­ents of the chil­dren al­legedly mo­lested by the coun­sel­lor have also com­plained that de­spite the crim­i­nal trial set down for the end of July, their chil­dren have yet to be given any sort of court prepa­ra­tion for what will po­ten­tially be trau­matic tes­ti­mony.

National Pros­e­cut­ing Author­ity spokes­woman Natasha Ramkisson said it was un­der­stand­able par­ents were anx­ious but the court prepa­ra­tion ses­sions were very “hands on” and would pre­pare the chil­dren for their tes­ti­mony.

Lynne Ca­wood, Child­line di­rec­tor in Gaut­eng, said such a sen­si­tive case, in­volv­ing chil­dren so young and prob­a­bly trau­ma­tised, meant extra time should have been as­signed to court prepa­ra­tion for the chil­dren.

Last month, a wa­ter­polo coach at Park­town Boys High School was ar­rested for al­legedly sex­u­ally as­sault­ing 20 pupils. The man, 22, last ap­peared in the Johannesburg Mag­is­trate’s Court last month, where it was re­vealed the State in­tended to trans­fer the case to the High Court for trial. He re­turns to court on July 11.

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