We cannot rule out arrests, says Limpopo SAHRC head after hearings on bullying, sexual abuse

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Hearing on Bullying Corporal Punishment and Sexual Relationships between Educators and Learners in Schools in Limpopo.
Hearing on Bullying Corporal Punishment and Sexual Relationships between Educators and Learners in Schools in Limpopo.
SAHRC, Twitter
  • The SA Human Rights Commission hearings in Limpopo have exposed system failures in the rising phenomenon of bullying in schools.
  • The commission said it would pursue all the cases that have apparently been swept under the carpet
  • A pupil who was repeatedly raped, allegedly by a 50-year old teacher, was discouraged to report the incident by some teachers at the school.

The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) hearings in Limpopo ended this week with fingers being pointed at failures in the education system when it comes to bullying, sexual relations with teachers and corporal punishment in schools.

Since hearings started on Tuesday, different speakers, NGOs, teacher trade unions, student organisations and parents all pointed out weaknesses in the education system.

Safety at school was a prominent issue, with parents worried about whether their children would return home free from harm by bullies, molesters or heavy-handed teachers.

Also taking prominence were how incidents were swept under the rug.

The commission held the hearings against the backdrop of the suicide of Mbilwi Secondary School pupil Lufuno Mavhunga.

She took her life after a video showing her being bullied by another pupil went viral on social media last month.

SAHRC provincial manager Victor Mavhidula told the media it would follow up on the cases that were mentioned, where action was not taken by teachers or other relevant authorities.

He spoke out strongly against teachers who turned a blind eye to unlawful incidents at their schools.

"Some policies have been formulated to give powers to educators to assess cases in their own corner on whether they are serious or not. It does not work that way. The law is very clear that once you find a child that is being neglected, you are obliged as a professional to report that case to the police."

Mavhidula said the problem appeared to be that teachers attempted to resolve issues without following the law.

He did not rule out the possibility of some people being arrested because of some testimonies.

He said:

Sometimes when we have to refer the cases to the police, we have to do our own investigations first. When we refer the cases, we don't leave room for any other things, because we are lawyers. We should even get those people who knew about the cases, but did nothing.

Mavhidula gave an example of a 50-year-old teacher who had allegedly repeatedly raped a pupil since 2019. 

He said the commission was obliged to report the incident to the police after being approached by the victim.

"This child, who reported the case to me, has shown trust to me and the human rights commission.  The child was scared because she was already told that the case 'will not go anywhere' if she reports it. That is why there was a delay. 

"This matter was reported to the relevant person and the person did nothing. From that time, the child didn't know where to go until she heard about us from the media. We conducted our investigation and then referred the matter to the police," Mavhidula added.

Education authorities promised to revisit some of their policies, saying they would deal harshly with perpetrators of violence at schools.

He added a report about the hearings would be compiled and released to the public.

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