Schools fail SA when they put our kids at risk
Attacks on children at school are, sadly, all too common in SA. It seems that every week a new and disturbing case hits the headlines. Pupils are being sexually assaulted — by staff and other children — in a place where they should feel protected and nurtured. The latest incident, reported in the Sunday Times today, highlights such shocking negligence by authorities that it is difficult to comprehend how these events could have unfolded. The case is disturbing for many reasons. First, a teacher quizzes the victim, aged just 10, and the alleged perpetrator, aged 11, together in a classroom. So much for different versions of the incident. She also decides to video the interview, which shows her chastising the upset girl. Then she sends the video to other people, and it goes viral. So much for the victim’s privacy. On top of this, the school doesn’t report the incident to the education department or police. It also takes no action against the teacher or the boy.
But perhaps the biggest shock is the comment made by the national education department’s spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga, who says the department has not taken any action because it is still investigating whether the incident was rape or consensual sex between minors. But the law is clear: “A male or female person under the age of 12 years is incapable of consenting to a sexual act.”
Tomorrow, SA’s 20th annual 16 days of activism for no violence against women and children comes to a close. But if Mhlanga’s comment is anything to go by, SA has not learnt much from it. There is clearly still much ignorance regarding rape, especially when it involves minors. To add insult to injury, the girl’s mother says police have not yet contacted her to get her daughter’s version of events, despite police telling the Sunday Times the docket would be forwarded to prosecutors next week for a decision on whether to prosecute.
While the main villains in this tragic tale have yet to face any consequences for their actions, a little girl’s life has changed forever. She has been pulled out of her school and moved to a new town, and will have to navigate the rest of her life as one of SA’s thousands of rape survivors.