Sexual acts and relationships between educators and pupils must be addressed and brought to end.
These were the sentiments expressed by President Cyril Ramaphosa as he delivered his keynote address on day one of the ninth national congress of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) that took place in Nasrec on Wednesday.
Although Ramaphosa acknowledged the positive work being done by those entrusted with imparting knowledge on to the youth of the country, he lambasted educators involved in sexual activities with pupils, “who are your children”.
“There are too many reports of sexual relations between educators and learners. This abhorrent behaviour must be addressed and stopped,” he said.
He reminded educators that they hold the position of “parent” while pupils are under their care.
“As educators, your job is that of a parent to the children who come to your schools, you are not supposed to be lovers of children at schools. We may want to deny this as it often happens, but we all know that it is happening.”
Ramaphosa added: “As a teacher, you are a parent to any child ... you do not have sexual relations with your child. It is not allowed, and because you are parents, we expect that you will be way above these types of behaviour. At the same time, the law must be allowed to take its course.”
Following the scourge of violence against women that the country has faced, Ramaphosa told attendees that included Sadtu general-secretary Mugwena Maluleke: “The sad reality is that such heinous crimes also occur in schools and other places of learning. Educators are often in the best place to notice when learners are victims or are at risk and we urge you to speak out this culture of silence empowers perpetrators.”
Following the president’s address, Maluleke told City Press that the issue of violence in schools was a “societal” one.
“As a nation we should also not just take spoken words but demand action. If we move together and we stand together, we can make sure that what needs to happen in fact happens,” he said.
“We have children taking part in disturbing acts of violence at schools and we need to denounce violence. Our society is too angry and bitter and we need to learn to solve issues without turning to violence.”
“Children act out what they see in their communities. Teachers also must desist from being violent on learners because one thing people don’t realise is that acts such as corporal punishment actually damage a person.”
However, the president said that both teachers and pupils were vital in growing the South African economy.
“The only way to grow the economy, to ensure high economic growth, is to provide access to quality education,” he said.
“We need to start investing more in children’s formative years to ensure better literacy and numeracy outcomes in later years.”
He added: Educators are “key economic players” who have the education of young South Africans in their hands.
Maluleke told City Press that his union welcomed Ramaphosa’s commitment to growing the economy.
“Issues like poverty and unemployment need to be addressed and we are happy that he raised these. People in the country are desperate and the economy needs to be revived,” he said.