Friday 19 April

SECTION27 TAKES EDUCATION AUTHORITIES TO COURT FOR FAILING LEARNERS WHO SURVIVED SEXUAL ASSAULT

22 March 2022, Johannesburg – SECTION27 represents the Teddy Bear Clinic for Abused Children and the parents of two learners who were sexually assaulted while at school. The matter is on the unopposed roll at the High Court of South Africa (North West Division, Mafikeng) on Thursday, 24 March 2022.

One learner was allegedly raped by a school caretaker in 2015. Two years later, the same caretaker allegedly sexually assaulted that learner’s younger sibling. For years, no action was taken against the perpetrator, who continued to be employed by the School Governing  Body (SGB) at the school and therefore continued to pose a risk to other learners at the school.

The parents of the learner reported the rape of their child to the school principal, but the alleged perpetrator was not disciplined or suspended. Because of this inaction, the same caretaker continued preying on minors and sexually assaulted their other child. The parents of the learners also tried to report this to the school, with no success.

The 2019 Protocol for the Management and Reporting of Sexual Abuse and Harassment in Schools states that school officials have a duty to report any suspected incident of sexual abuse or harassment immediately. But in this case, the caretaker was only suspended four years later, after SECTION27 instituted legal action in October 2021.

According to the Children’s Act (38 of 2005), the principal and SGB’s joint failure to report sexual assault is a criminal offence.

At all levels of the education system, authorities failed these two learners. SECTION27 believes that the education authorities breached their constitutional obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the learners’ constitutional rights and the obligation to act in the best interests of children.

The Teddy Bear Clinic and the two parents have approached the court for an order declaring the school principal, the SGB, provincial and national education officials in breach of their constitutional and statutory duties.  We are also asking the court to order that education officials to investigate the matter properly and take appropriate disciplinary action against the caretaker.

South African society needs to do more to support survivors of sexual abuse, and prevent ongoing abuse, particularly when it involves the abuse of minors. The failure to address sexual abuse or harassment is systemic, and officials in the basic education sector must take immediate and effective action against alleged perpetrators when such abuse takes place in the school environment.

The matter will be heard on the unopposed roll.

[ENDS]

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SECTION27 acknowledges the support of Legal Aid South Africa.