Increase in abuse cases at schools
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.