In­crease in abuse cases at schools

Zululand Observer - Monday - - ZO NEWS - Gugu Myeni

THIRTY-THREE cases of sex­ual as­sault of learn­ers and 22 cases of phys­i­cal abuse were recorded at schools in the prov­ince dur­ing the 2017/2018 fi­nan­cial year. This was re­vealed by the KZN Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion in a par­lia­men­tary re­sponse to the Demo­cratic Al­liance (DA). The lat­est fig­ures re­flect an in­crease from the 20 sex­ual as­sault cases recorded in KZN dur­ing 2016/17. It was re­vealed that to date, 231 learn­ers have been re­ferred for coun­selling as a re­sult of abuse. ‘The DA is deeply dis­turbed by these fig­ures. This in­for­ma­tion points di­rectly to our young peo­ple be­ing failed on so many lev­els,’ said DA spokesper­son on ed­u­ca­tion, Dr Rishi­gen Vi­ranna. ‘Our schools should be a place of learn­ing and safety, yet it ap­pears that criminality is en­demic with a never-end­ing stream of re­ports of abuse from what must be de­scribed as a mi­nor­ity of teach­ers. ‘Just last week it was re­ported that a KZN high school teacher is be­lieved to have im­preg­nated five learn­ers from dif­fer­ent schools in the Man­guzi area dur­ing the last five years.’ It was also re­ported that 16 teach­ers were at­tacked or ver­bally abused at schools in the prov­ince. uMkhanyakude Dis­trict recorded the high­est num­ber of in­ci­dents in­volv­ing six teach­ers, fol­lowed by Uthukela with four, King Cetshwayo three, Umziny­athi two and one teacher in the Zu­l­u­land Dis­trict. Dr Vi­ranna said the party also ac­knowl­edges the of­ten ex­tremely dif­fi­cult con­di­tions that ed­u­ca­tors are work­ing un­der and has called for the depart­ment to in­ter­vene. ‘We ac­knowl­edge that most have the best in­ter­ests of learn­ers at heart and it is ex­tremely alarm­ing to hear of such cases.’ Among the party’s rec­om­mended in­ter­ven­tions is the fill­ing of se­cu­rity guard po­si­tions at schools to pro­tect both learn­ers and ed­u­ca­tors from crime. ‘The de­vel­op­ment of a teacher sex of­fend­ers list is sug­gested that both schools and de­part­ments of ed­u­ca­tion can check against, and also to avoid ‘prov­ince jump­ing’. The KZN Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion said cases are thor­oughly in­ves­ti­gated, dis­ci­plinary hear­ings are con­vened and ac­tion is taken based on the out­comes of the hear­ings. A na­tional school safety frame­work has also been es­tab­lished ‘to pro­vide an im­por­tant in­stru­ment through which min­i­mum stan­dards for safety at schools are es­tab­lished, im­ple­mented and mon­i­tored over time’. A pro­gramme was con­ducted this year in which 73 373 learn­ers were ad­dressed on is­sues re­lat­ing to learner safety and bul­ly­ing. More than 1 000 ed­u­ca­tors were trained in the guide­lines for the man­age­ment of child abuse, ne­glect and ex­ploita­tion.

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