Port Elizabeth – Schools, which are meant to be safe havens for children, are now high risk areas for them to be sexually abused by teachers and caretakers, Minister in the Presidency Responsible for Women Susan Shabangu said on Saturday.
"This year we have witnessed the worst and most shocking incidents of violence against women and children," Shabangu said during the launch of the 16 Days of Activism for no violence against women and children at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth.
"Schools, which used to be safe havens for our learners, have now become high risk areas for our... children because of some unscrupulous teachers and caretakers, who abuse them sexually. Many boys have also become victims of sexual abuse."
Several Gauteng schools have been recently at the centre of sexual abuse and rape claims.
It emerged earlier this month that a pensioner, who lives near a primary school in Diepsloot, had allegedly sexually assaulted a number of pupils.
In October, a security guard was arrested and charged with three counts of rape and five counts of sexual assault after he was accused of allegedly sexually assaulting at least 87 school girls at a primary school in Soweto, Johannesburg.
In the same month, it emerged that a security guard at a high school in Mamelodi had allegedly raped a student at her matric dance in September.
Earlier in the year, a 22-year-old former Parktown Boys High School assistant sports coach was charged with sexually grooming more than 20 pupils aged between 15 and 16, sexual assault, and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.
Shabangu said government was hard at work fighting violence and abuse with the continuation of specialised Sexual Offences Courts, and several progressive and comprehensive laws, policies, support systems and institutional arrangements have been put in place to respond to violence against women.
"Government also re-introduced the specialised Family Violence Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units and there are now one hundred and seventy six of these attached to all police stations nationally."
"Government has declared violence against women and children a strategic crime-prevention and policing priority."
President Jacob Zuma was initially set to launch the campaign, however in a brief statement on Saturday morning, the Presidency said Zuma would be now be represented at the launch by Shabangu.
No reasons were given as to his absence.