NORTH WEST EDUCATION AUTHORITIES ‘IN BREACH OF DUTIES’ TO LEARNERS WHO SURVIVED SEXUAL ASSAULT BY SCHOOL CAREGIVER

NORTH WEST EDUCATION AUTHORITIES ‘IN BREACH OF DUTIES’ TO LEARNERS WHO SURVIVED SEXUAL ASSAULT BY SCHOOL CAREGIVER

Education officials ordered to investigate rape allegations and undertake appropriate disciplinary action against perpetrator

28 March 2022, Johannesburg – SECTION27 welcomes a recent court order from the High Court of South Africa (North West Division, Mafikeng) which declared that basic education authorities in North West were in breach of their constitutional, statutory and common law duties regarding cases of sexual assault at a primary school in the province. The education authorities are also ordered to investigate the allegations of sexual assault of two minors by a school caretaker, and undertake appropriate disciplinary action against the perpetrator.

Representing Teddy Bear Clinic and the parents of the two minors who were sexually assaulted, SECTION27 argued that education authorities at all levels of the basic education system had failed the learners by continuing to employ the caretaker long after allegations of rape and sexual assault had been reported. The school principal, the school governing body (SGB), provincial and national education officials did not oppose the matter in court, and our draft order was made an order of the High Court by Justice Djaje on Thursday 24 March 2022.

The allegations go back to 2015, whenone learner was allegedly raped by the school caretaker. In 2017, the same caretaker allegedly sexually assaulted that learner’s younger sibling. For years, no action was taken against the perpetrator at any level of the schooling system, and they continued to be employed by the SGB. They were only suspended in October 2021, when SECTION27 instituted legal action on behalf of the applicants.

This judgment is an important step towards strengthening accountability on the part of education officials when sexual assault takes place in the school environment. Systems of investigating accusations of sexual assault in the school environment and disciplining perpetrators must be improved so that learners’ rights are not violated by predators in the school environment.  

We intend to monitor that the investigations and disciplinary action against the alleged perpetrator that have now been ordered by the court are undertaken by all relevant authorities.  

[ENDS]

For media queries, contact:

  • Patience Phiri (phiri@section27.org.za +27 72 992 8380)

SECTION27 acknowledges the support of Legal Aid South Africa.