29/11/2012 – High levels of rape and violence at schools blights our children’s futures, says ACDP

High levels of rape and violence at schools blights our children’s futures, says ACDP

 

November 28, 2012 – The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) has raised concern about the growing incidence of rape and violence in schools, in particular the resulting high pregnancy rate of school girls as young as nine years old.

 

The party believes that this horrific issue needs to be highlighted again during the national Vikiela (isiZulu: Protect) campaign, the ACDP’s theme this year for the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Woman and Child Abuse campaign.

 

In 2011, 30 percent of South African girl pupils reported being raped at school. A more worrying factor is the school pregnancy rate of 2 062 in Grades Three to Six 6, which represents learners mostly under the age of 12.

 

“How do children as young as nine, who are not legally able to consent to sex, fall pregnant?” asks Jo Ann Downs, ACDP MPL in KZN and Chairman of the party’s NEC.

 

“Drastic interventions need to be undertaken to tackle abuse in schools,” she said, adding that when one considers the chances of a young girl falling pregnant, and the abusers that rush them to get abortions, this speaks to a much higher figure of abuse.

 

Although growing media reports of teachers having sex with pupils have been condemned by the Department of Education’s Code of Ethics, these are often not investigated.

 

“I cannot stress how important it is for the Department of Education to instead make statistics about sexual abuse and the outcomes of the investigations public and risk shame, than to cover them up and not have them addressed,” said Downs.

 

“We can not stop demanding Government intervention until something is done,” she added. “Parents must also play their part taking time to speak to their children about relationships in school, especially with teachers.”

 

In a recent case, an awareness campaign on HIV/AIDS and child abuse by Durban-based NGO, Bobbi Bear resulted in the arrest of a headmaster in Umkomaas, south of Durban, who had raped, sexually harassed and assaulted a number of schoolgirls.

 

“This was achieved purely by speaking to the pupils,” Downs said. She added that the Department of Education needs to undertake these tasks, or contract relevant NGOs to do so.

 

“This must be done not only for the sake of uncovering cases, providing justice, getting these teachers out of the school system and getting counseling for pupils who are victims of school violence, but also for imperative research into the extent of the problem. Policies and interventions are made in response to cold hard facts and figures, and at the moment there is insufficient data to back up a meaningful intervention strategy,” Downs said.

 

Pupil death rate is intolerable

 

The number of pupil deaths reported also creates cause for concern. There were 1 155 deaths in 2008 and 2009 due to violence and homicide. A study conducted in 2008 showed two in five schools being involved in pending cases of serious verbal abuse and one in four involved in cases of physical abuse.

 

This study by the CJCP also highlighted the fact that the Department of Education has very little, if any, data on school violence. “Children were found to be afraid to report crimes perpetrated by educators, as they are most often threatened with failing the year or being kicked out of the class,” Downs said.

 

“To make matters worse, it was also reported that School Governing Bodies were not addressing complaints, and those that were referred to the Education Department’s district offices, have been known to disappear,” she added. “For the sake of our children and our society, these cases cannot be swept under the rug,” she said.

 

/ends.

 

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