The announcement by the South African Council of Educators (SACE) that prospective teachers must provide a police clearance certificate before they can be registered will help in addressing the failures in the vetting of teachers.
This is, however, not enough as it unfortunately leaves massive gaps in the vetting system.
Existing teachers will not have to provide the certificate, which means that all current teachers will not be properly vetted; and cases of abuse that may have resulted in disciplinary hearings but not criminal cases will not be captured by a police certificate on a criminal history.
The DA is now submitting questions to each provincial department to ascertain what, if any, vetting processes are taking place, and whether or not they have reported every guilty disciplinary finding to SACE as is required by law.
SACE must also check whether teachers have a criminal history. They are currently struggling to access the Sexual Offenders Register and Child Protection Register and this should not be the case.
During our meeting with SACE on 27 March this year, the Council said that they have had difficulty accessing these registers, despite the fact that checking school staff against them is a legal requirement.
SACE has also reported in every annual report for the past six years that they have not received proper reporting of complaints against teachers from the provinces. Without a national record, teachers can simply abuse learners and then move to a different province or to a private school where they can't be checked to continue offending there. This is unacceptable.
The vetting of teachers is supposed to keep learners safe from predators and the failure to check teachers for previous offences or allegations of misconduct will compromise childrens' safety.
SACE must urgently ensure that vetting is of the highest quality for the sake of all learners.
Ian Ollis MP
DA Shadow Minister of Basic Education