The principal and governing body of a school in the North West, who have continued to employ a caretaker accused of raping a learner and s.e.xually abusing another, are facing court action to ensure that they act against the alleged perpetrator.
Section27, which represents the Teddy Bear Clinic for Abused Children and is assisting the parents of the two alleged victims, said it was unacceptable that the caretaker was still employed at the school.
The one incident took place six years ago and the other four years ago at the primary school, yet no action had been taken against the caretaker, according to the two organizations.
It is claimed that the one learner was allegedly raped in 2015, while the other was allegedly s.e.xually assaulted at the school in 2017.
Section27 has instituted court action against the principal of the school and the governing body, who have continued to employ the accused even after they were made aware of the allegations of s.e.xual abuse.
The Department of Basic Education, as well as Police Ministry, were added as respondents in the case due to their alleged lack of action in the matter.
They are respondents due to their role as authorities who should have taken action against the alleged perpetrator, but who collectively failed to act efficiently and effectively to defend the rights of the children concerned, said Zeenat Sujee, an attorney at Section27.
After the caretaker allegedly raped a pupil in 2015, her parents tried to report the incident to the principal, the district education office, and local police station. However, no action was taken against the caretaker, who continued to work at the school and apparently intimidated and terrorized the minor and her family.
In 2016, the child and her younger sibling were visiting their paternal grandmother, and the caretaker was present at the house.
It is alleged that the caretaker accosted the child’s sister by fondling her buttocks. He then gave her R5 and told her not to speak of the incident.
“Shockingly, the caretaker remains employed at the school. It is deeply concerning to realize that the (alleged) perpetrator continues to have unrestricted access to prey on children.
“Despite authorities – both policing and education – being made aware of the (alleged) s.e.xual misconduct of the caretaker and the reported incidents, still no action has been taken against the caretaker,” Sujee said.
She added that with the court’s intervention, Section27 was expecting education authorities and law enforcement agencies to comply with their statutory and constitutional obligations to properly investigate incidents of s.e.xual abuse and to act against the alleged perpetrators.
The 2019 Protocol for the Management and Reporting of S.e.xual Abuse and Harassment in Schools provides a standardised guide for educators on the appropriate management and reporting of s.e.xual abuse and harassment.
This is to ensure an effective and timely response to cases of s.e.xual abuse and harassment, whether they are perpetrated by fellow learners, educators or by other persons.
According to the protocol, and in line with the Children’s Act, educators have a duty to report any incident or suspected incident of s.e.xual abuse and harassment immediately.
Under section 305 of the Children’s Act, the failure to report such incidents is considered a criminal offence.
“The inaction of the education and policing authorities who have a responsibility to protect the rights of children from s.e.xual abuse but have failed to do so in these incidents makes them complicit in perpetuating South Africa’s gender-based violence epidemic,” Sujee said.
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