The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) has commended the Free State province for continuously fighting the scourge of sexual violence in schools, according to recent statistics.
CGE spokesperson Javu Baloyi told The Weekly in a telephone interview that cases of sexual violence in schools in the Free State were among the lowest in the country, an indication that measures put in place were working.
Baloyi said this after the CGE met with the South African Council of Educators (SACE), Teddy Bear Clinic and the national Department of Basic Education (DBE) in Johannesburg on Tuesday. The meeting was called to discuss cases of sexual violence in schools that have been on a constant rise in recent months.
“The Free State recorded the lowest number, according to a sample study done recently and we think that is very good,” said Baloyi.
The Commission did a summation of sexual violence in schools across various provinces such as Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Northern Cape and North West.
According to the report, only one case was recently reported in Sasolburg in which two male learners were allegedly accused of raping a female learner in an empty classroom at the Iketsetseng Secondary School.
Baloyi as however quick to state that this does not mean no other cases of sexual violence happened in the province as quite often some go unreported.
“There is an extremely high rate of sexual violence in schools across the country and the Free State is not an exception. Several cases go unreported for various reasons. In some cases, the affected learners are threatened by the perpetrators and at times they are paid to remain silent.
“The perpetrators usually target children coming from poor households and they often give money to the learners and their families in order to sustain their illicit relationships with the learners. And at times the perpetrators have connections with people in people in authority and they are always protected. It’s a very complicated issue,” he added.
Among some of the worrying cases contained in the report, a bus driver employed by the Department of Education in Vryheid, KwaZulu Natal, allegedly raped a 13-year-old learner with special needs from Inkanyiso Special School. In Eshowe, a teacher allegedly raped a 12-year-old learner from Kwazbonele Primary School. In Mkhindini Area, a 51-year-old teacher was allegedly arrested for having a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old learner who then fell pregnant. It is also alleged that the educator gave the learner abortion pills, and now faces an additional charge of attempted murder.
In Kuruman in the Northern Cape, about 30 learners were alleged to have been impregnated by teachers from the same school, Bothitong in Kuruman. In Upington, it is alleged that a teacher at the AJ Ferreira Secondary School in Upington was arrested for the sexual harassment of two female learners. It’s believed the teacher took the learners in Grade 10 and 11 to an isolated classroom where he fondled their breasts and acted inappropriately for a period of about three months. He also allegedly sent them inappropriate phone messages and pictures.
A female employee at the Stillwater Intermediate School in Phelindaba, in the same province, is alleged to have been sexually harassed by a teacher at the school.
In another case, a 17-year-old female learner from Tshireleco High School in Kimberly was allegedly abducted by her boyfriend for purposes of a forced marriage. And, a 15-year-old learner with a mental disability and also from Kimberly, was allegedly raped by two of her male classmates who are also said to have mental disabilities during school hours at the school hostel.
The report also said cases of sexual abuse of children with disabilities in special schools are widespread in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.
In the North West, a Grade 4 male teacher is said to have sexually 30 Grade 4 learners at Klerksdorp Primary School. In Mafikeng a nine-year-old boy is said to have been raped by an unknown suspect at the Curro Academy.
In Centurion, Gauteng, a teacher at Valhalla Primary School was accused of sexually harassing school pupils, while in Bryanston a male teacher was accused of acts of sexual harassment against three learners during the 2017/18 period at the Bryanston High School. In Ekurhuleni, a Grade R boy was allegedly gang raped by four boys at Fakukhanya Primary School in Tsakane, Extension 5, Ekurhuleni. It is not clear whether the perpetrators are also learners at the school.
“The cases mentioned are only an indication of the reality faced by multitudes of learners and educators out there. The inappropriate sexual behaviour has resulted in a high number of pregnancies among female learners which leads to stigmatisation and oftentimes being unable to complete schooling. There is also the issue of unsafe spaces in the school environment as the majority of these offences take place at school, even during school hours,” Baloyi stated.
The CGE is one of the country’s Chapter 9 institutions charged with strengthening constitutional democracy through the promotion, protection, development and attainment of gender equality. Its specific mandate is to advance gender equality in all spheres of society and make recommendations on any legislation affecting the status of women.
The meeting agreed to work more closely with the police in addressing sexual violence in schools and ensuring perpetrators are timeously and successfully prosecuted.
It was also agreed that sexual harassment policies should be effectively implemented in schools as one of the interventions in addressing the scourge of Gender Based Violence (GBV) in schools and that the sexual offences register must be constantly updated.
The role of the School Governing Bodies also came under the spotlight as they should play a big role in fighting GBV in schools.