Parliament calls for action against sexual abuse in schools

Cape Town – The recent spate of "alarming" reports of alleged sexual assault and rape of pupils requires immediate action, said Parliament's select committee on education and recreation after cases of alleged sexual assault against pupils at schools in Gauteng and Limpopo were brought to light.

Chairperson of the committee, Lungelwa Zwane, said in a statement on Monday that the schooling environment should at all times be a place of safety, where children are able to learn without hindrance. 

"The safety of the school environment must be reasserted to ensure that parents feel free to send their children to school; and that learners are able to learn because education is vital in fighting the triple scourges of poverty, inequality and unemployment," said Zwane.

READ: Yet another rape allegation surfaces at Gauteng school - MEC

The committee reiterated its call for a societal recommitment to fighting all forms of violence in schools and urged the Department of Basic Education to strengthen verification procedures for hiring employees by using the national register for sex offenders to ensure that children are protected from known offenders. 

"As a society, we have failed our children and have exposed them to risks from which they must be protected. As a society, we need to find solutions to these problems that besiege the education sector," Zwane said.

The DA called on Gauteng Premier David Makhura to urgently appoint a commission of inquiry into sexual abuse cases at schools in the province.

Minister's silence 'deafening'

"A full-blown inquiry will be able to thoroughly investigate both known and unknown abuse cases in our schools and provide substantial solutions to the Gauteng department of education in fighting the scourge of sexual abuse," said DA MPL in Gauteng Khume Ramulifho in a statement released on Monday.

Ramulifho said while the DA supported the department in instituting security vetting measures beyond criminal records for security personnel stationed at schools across the province, the premier had the opportunity to go beyond reactionary rhetoric in addressing the issue.

The UDM's Women's Organisation (Udemwo) also on Monday expressed its concern about "the continued crime and violence that [is] prevalent in many schools throughout the country". 

READ: Soweto school guard accused of sexual assault 'seemed like an angel'

"There seems to be an increase of criminal activities in our schools that puts our pupils' safety and lives at risk. This is a threat to education and jeopardises our children's basic rights as entrenched in the Constitution," Udemwo chairperson Thandi Nontenja said in a statement.

She said Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga's silence on the matter was "too deafening". 

"This situation is unacceptable, and all stakeholders involved cannot allow this crisis in our schools to continue. It is time to for them to have an urgent meeting and find permanent solutions to these problems which affect our children's and our country's futures." 

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