Sexual, physical and verbal abuse on the rise at KZN schools

Democratic Alliance media statement by Dr Rishigen Viranna, MPL

DA spokesperson on Education

Sexual, physical and verbal abuse on the rise at KZN schools.

 

A parliamentary reply to questions by the Democratic Alliance has revealed that the number of KwaZulu-Natal learners who are the victims of sexual or physical assault by teachers is on the rise.

According to the November 2018 response (view here), by KZN Education MEC, Mthandeni Dlungwane, 20 sexual assault cases and 30 physical assault cases were recorded in KZN during 2016/17. Meanwhile, during 2017/8, 33 sexual assault cases and 22 physical assault cases have been recorded to date.

The same reply also states that the number of learners who were referred for counselling as a result is a staggering 231 to date this year. The DA remains concerned by under-reporting of violence in schools as principals attempt to protect perpetrators or their school’s reputation.

The DA is deeply disturbed by these figures. One case of sexual or physical abuse of a learner by a teacher is one too many. This information points directly to our young people being failed on so many levels.

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.

While the DA welcomes reports that the South African Council for Educators (SACE) has deployed a special team to investigate the allegations, the question is – Why did the Department of Education and SACE only react after five learners were pregnant?

The same reply also confirms that 16 KZN teachers were also attacked or verbally abused at schools in the province within the following areas:

  •  Zululand (1)
  •  Umkhanyakude (6)
  • Uthukela (4)
  • King Cetshwayo (3)
  • Umzinyathi (2)

The DA acknowledges the often extremely difficult conditions that educators are working under. We also acknowledge that many have the best interests of learners at heart and it is extremely alarming to hear of such cases.

The findings within this parliamentary reply make it clear that current interventions by KZN’s ANC-run DoE to improve overall safety within the province’s schools are not working. Nor are the disciplinary measures against teachers with individuals often turning up in schools in other provinces.

Essentially, KZN’s Education Department has failed in its duty to protect both learners and teachers and maintain proper discipline within our schools. It is clear that a complete re-think is needed. The DA calls for:

  •  The filling of security guard positions at schools to protect both learners and educators from crime;
  • The development of an educator sex offenders list that both schools and Departments of Education can check educators references against so that province-jumping is avoided;
  • Swift suspension and disciplinary procedures against accused educators and learners;
  • Co-ordinated school safety programmes between the Departments of Education, Community Safety and Social Development. These departments cannot continue working in silos and;
  • Programmes to educate parents and communities when it comes to teaching their children discipline and the power of education in creating future opportunities.

A DA –led government will continue to fight for safe learning environments for both learners and teachers within KZN’s schools. Education is the most powerful tool for millions of poor KwaZulu-Natal learners to escape the poverty trap. Our learners deserve safe schools, quality education and the best possible opportunities.

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