The Department of Basic Education, in partnership with Lead SA, has announced a major initiative to raise awareness and educate South Africa's 10.2-million learners about the scourge of rape.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has issued a directive to all provincial education departments to instruct schools across the country to call special assemblies at 8am on 1 March, where learners will be addressed about rape and sexual crimes.
"Following the singing of the National Anthem, we want principals, educators, learners or activists to address the assemblies for 15 minutes about rape and sexual crimes. The focus will be on education/awareness and more importantly what to do," Motshekga explained.
She added that the department would provide guidelines for the talks, adding that NGOs were encouraged to assist with the morning's talks.
Rape Response booklet and pledge
A Rape Response booklet and pledge, based on the Bill of Responsibilities which includes a statement on violence and rape, will also be circulated. The booklet and a poster, which will help to guide educators on how to cope with this sensitive topic, can be downloaded from www.education.gov.za.
Motshekga urged educators and learners to adopt the pledge, which will be available in all 11 official languages, at the assemblies.
The department has also called on all schools to prepare worksheets for learners about violent and sexual crimes. "We want boy and girl learners to complete these worksheets at home, with their families if possible, and return them to their teachers," said the minister.
March is South Africa's Human Rights Month, and Motshekga stressed the need to teach youngster about their rights and responsibilities as outlined in the Bill of Responsibilities.
'Take the message home'
She encouraged ordinary South Africans to adopt the pledge as well, after it has been taken by millions of learners on 1 March. "Take it to your offices, factories and homes ... we call on civil society to support the StopRape initiative."
She further appealed to learners to report any form of abuse from anyone to the authorities.
Lead SA said it hoped the 10.2-million learners would "take the messages home so that society at large can act. The 'StopRape' message needs to reach every corner of South Africa. Let's all unite and fight rape with one voice."
Proudly South African and Shout SA have already come out in support of the awareness programme.
Proudly South African said it would include the messaging in its national "Ubuntu schools" campaign, which was launched shortly after the gang rape of a Soweto teenager in April last year.