Outcry over ‘inaction’ at sex abuse of disabled kids
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