Today in the Basic Education Portfolio Committee I requested that the South African Council of Educators (SACE) be called to account to the committee on cases involving the rape and abuse of children by educators.
My request was ruled out of order by the chairperson. I will therefore be writing to both the chairperson and the committee whip to formally request that this matter be put on the agenda as a matter of urgency.
The SACE is the primary statutory body tasked with ensuring accountability and good ethical practice among educators. However, in reply to a DA parliamentary question last year, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga revealed that the SACE had not investigated or finalised over half of the sexual abuse-related complaints received from learners over the last three years.
For the 2010 - 2012 period there were 266 reported sexual abuse-related complaints. A minimum of 102 cases had not been investigated and 41 cases were still to be finalised. This number could be even higher as the statistics for outstanding investigations for 2010 were not provided.
In keeping with the trend of rape complaints the true number is likely to be far higher.
Teachers who are found to have violated the law after the SACE had conducted its investigations are dismissed and struck off from the teaching profession. However, if the SACE did not investigate all complaints received, it is reasonable to presume that abusive teachers not yet investigated or whose investigations are still pending, are still teaching our children.
This raises a number of serious questions on the abuse of children by educators:
Why have the SACE not investigated all complaints received?
How will they ensure that all complaints are investigated as a matter of urgency and what steps are being taken to expedite pending matters?
What checks and balances will they put in place to ensure that learners are protected during pending investigations?
Why are some teachers merely suspended instead of being struck off the roll when found guilty?
Is there a mechanism in place at schools to notify the South African Police Services of any reported abuse immediately, and which official is responsible for this notification?
It is a heart-breaking reality that many of our children are being violated by educators in a position of trust and care. This cannot be allowed to continue.
Schools must be places of trust where our children can learn and grow to adulthood in safety.
Annette Lovemore, Shadow Minister of Basic Education