Friday 19 April

SECTION27 represents the Teddy Bear Clinic for Abused Children, an organisation that responds to incidents of sexual abuse against children and the parents of two children, one of whom was allegedly raped in 2015 while the other was sexually assaulted in 2017 by a caretaker at a public primary school in the North West Province.

SECTION27 has instituted a court action against the principal of the school, and the school governing body, who have continued to employ the accused caretaker even after they were made aware of the allegations of sexual abuse.

The Department of Basic Education, the head of the North West provincial education department, the MEC for Sports and Education Development, the Minister of Police and the Civilian Secretariat For The Police Service are named as respondents in the case for their role as authorities who should have taken action against the accused perpetrator but collectively, failed to act efficiently and effectively to defend the rights of the children concerned.

The caretaker allegedly raped a female minor in 2015. Her parents tried to report the incident to the principal, the district education office, and their local police station; however, no action was taken against the caretaker by either party. The caretaker continued to work at the school and intimidate and terrorise the minor and her family.

In 2016, the female minor and her younger sibling were visiting their paternal grandmother, and the caretaker was present at the house. It is alleged that the caretaker accosted the female minor’s sister by foundling her buttocks. He then gave her R5 and told her not to speak of the incident. 

“Shockingly, the caretaker remains employed at the school,” says Zeenat Sujee, attorney at SECTION27. “It is deeply concerning to realise that the perpetrator continues to have unrestricted access to prey on children at the school. Despite authorities, both policing and education, being made aware of the sexual misconducts of the caretaker and the reported incidents, still no action has been taken against the caretaker for his repeated heinous acts of sexual abuse of minors.”

With the court’s intervention, SECTION27 is expecting education authorities and law enforcement agencies to comply with their statutory and constitutional obligations to properly investigate the incidents of sexual abuse and to act decisively against the accused perpetrator.

The 2019 Protocol for the Management and Reporting of Sexual Abuse and Harassment in Schools provides a standardised guide for educators on the appropriate management and reporting of sexual abuse and harassment to ensure an effective and timely response to cases of sexual abuse and harassment, whether they are perpetrated by fellow learners, educators or by other persons. According to the protocol, and in line with the Children’s Act, 2005, educators have a duty to report any incident or suspected incident of sexual abuse and harassment immediately. Under section 305 of the Children’s Act, the failure to report is considered a criminal offence.

The inaction of the education and policing authorities who have a responsibility to protect the rights of children from sexual abuse but have failed to do so in these incidents makes them complicit in perpetuating South Africa’s gender-based violence epidemic. The sexual assault of the minor’s younger sister might have been prevented had authorities taken their statutory and constitutional obligations seriously to act in the best interest of children.

SECTION27 wishes to thank Legal Aid South Africa for the funding support provided for this case.

Ends**

For media enquires contact

Boitumelo Masipa: 0814529096 | masipa@section27.org.za

SECTION27 wishes to thank Legal Aid for the financial support of this case