Like the rest of the nation, the South African Human Rights Commission (the SAHRC or Commission) is shocked by recent reports of sexual violence directed against children, in schools across South Africa. One of these reports is of particular concern as it indicates that 87 children were molested, sexually harassed or otherwise sexually assaulted by a 57 year old school patroller at AB Xuma Primary School in Soweto. The Commission is deeply concerned that this abuse occurred over such a protracted period, that so many children report that they were sexually abused during this time and that the school authorities were either not aware of or ignored the then ongoing abuse. A further report has emerged over the past weekend, of a 17 year old learner who had been raped by a patroller in a separate incident in Pretoria. The Gauteng Department of Education has indicated that at least five separate incidents are under investigation, in Gauteng Province alone.
The Commission is engaging with the Commission for Gender Equality (the CGE) and the two Chapter 9 institutions intend to collaborate and work with the Department of Basic Education and communities in creating a safe learning environment for learners in schools and beyond, in communities, where they live.
In addition to the fact that this persistent and ongoing sexual violence within our communities is criminal, it also constitutes egregious human rights violations and an infringement of children's rights as outlined in Section 28 of our Constitution. The Commission condemns any violence and particularly violence against women, girls and children. Although we have done this before, we continue to call upon all men and women to join forces to fight this scourge. "The issue of violence against children is a huge concern to me. As the Commissioner responsible for children's rights I feel very strongly that all officials who are tasked with looking after children need to sit around the table and come up with strategies whereby they hold one another accountable for what is happening to our children. A lot of work needs to be done in changing society's attitudes to children. Parents need to be empowered and made aware of the rights of their children at all times and under all circumstances." said Commissioner Angie Makwetla, Commissioner responsible for Children's Rights.
Echoing the sentiment, the Commissioner responsible for Education, Commissioner, André Gaum, added that "The right to education, as set out in section 29 of the Bill of Rights, cannot be fully realised if our schools are not places of safety for children. For the right to education to be meaningfully and fully realised, schools need to be free of sexual predators and we need to find solutions with the co-operation of the SAHRC, the CGE, the Department of Basic Education - nationally and provincially - as well as other government departments along with parents and communities to ensure safety at schools."
Issued by: South African Human Rights Commission