Out­cry over ‘in­ac­tion’ at sex abuse of dis­abled kids

Daily News - - METRO - SNE MA­SUKU sne ma­[email protected]

A DEL­E­GA­TION led by Ed­u­ca­tion MEC Mthandeni Dlung­wane de­scended on a spe­cial school in the Umz­imkhulu dis­trict yes­ter­day af­ter learn­ing of al­le­ga­tions that teach­ers were sex­u­ally abus­ing pupils.

This was the se­cond time in two years that such al­le­ga­tions were made against staff at the school, and ed­u­ca­tion stake­hold­ers had asked how long the abuse of the dis­abled pupils would con­tinue be­fore ac­tion was taken against those im­pli­cated.

In 2016, there were al­le­ga­tions that a se­cu­rity guard at the school was sex­u­ally mo­lest­ing pupils. A teacher was also im­pli­cated.

The ed­u­ca­tion port­fo­lio com­mit­tee had vis­ited the school to in­ves­ti­gate the mat­ter.

A case of rape was opened against the se­cu­rity guard, but it was not clear what hap­pened to the case af­ter the man was re­leased on bail.

At the week­end, the al­le­ga­tions resur­faced dur­ing the dis­abil­ity Par­lia­ment sit­ting, this time against teach­ers at the school.

The al­le­ga­tions led to the visit yes­ter­day by Dlung­wana and his del­e­ga­tion. Dlung­wana said he hoped the trust be­tween the school and com­mu­nity would be re­stored af­ter he in­ter­acted with the teach­ers, par­ents and the com­mu­nity.

“The visit was to check on the de­vel­op­ments of the sex­ual al­le­ga­tions. We have taken some ac­tion we be­lieve would re­store the trust in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem in KwaZulu-Natal,” he said.

Dlung­wana would not say what ac­tion would be taken against the teach­ers im­pli­cated.

Ed­u­ca­tion stake­hold­ers said they were not sat­is­fied with Dlung­wana’s re­sponse. They said he was not de­ci­sive in his ac­tions about the al­le­ga­tions dat­ing back to 2016.

Dr Rishi­gen Vi­ranna, DA spokesper­son on ed­u­ca­tion and mem­ber of the KZN Port­fo­lio Com­mit­tee, said Dlung­wana’s visit had come too late.

“We need to be proac­tive to en­sure our chil­dren are pro­tected. It is more shock­ing that the al­le­ga­tions were resur­fac­ing at a spe­cial school where the pupils were sup­posed to be pro­tected,” he said.

Vi­ranna said the resur­fac­ing of the al­le­ga­tions in­di­cated the de­part­ment had no proper pro­ce­dures to deal with such cases.

“There should be stricter safety and se­cu­rity at our spe­cial schools.”

In a re­sponse to a par­lia­men­tary ques­tion, the de­part­ment re­vealed that 20 cases of sex­ual as­sault and 30 of phys­i­cal as­sault had been recorded at schools in the prov­ince in 2016/17.

In the last fi­nan­cial year, 33 sex­ual as­sault and 22 phys­i­cal as­sault cases were recorded, and 231 pupils had been re­ferred for coun­selling.

Vi­ranna rec­om­mended that there be a sex­ual of­fend­ers list for the de­part­ment to en­sure that sex­ual preda­tors did not get any­where near chil­dren and schools.

Thembi Mad­lopha-Mthethwa, IFP spokesper­son on ed­u­ca­tion, said when the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee vis­ited the school in 2016, they had rec­om­mended that those im­pli­cated be re­moved from the school, but that never hap­pened.

Allen Thomp­son, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Teach­ers’ Union, said the al­le­ga­tions were po­lit­i­cal to get cer­tain teach­ers fired.

It is more shock­ing that the al­le­ga­tions are resur­fac­ing at a spe­cial school where the pupils were sup­posed to be pro­tected

Dr Rishi­gen Vi­ranna DA ed­u­ca­tion spokesper­son

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