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Concern over high rate of sex offences at NC schools

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Schools and school hostels are meant to be safe places for our children, yet they are increasingly becoming the playground of sexual predators

CONCERN has been expressed about the high rate of sexual offences taking place at schools after a Northern Cape deputy principal was suspended following allegations of sexual misconduct.

DA MPL and constituency head of Bo-Karoo, Fawzie Rhoda, said yesterday that the deputy principal of the school in Colesberg was suspended after “at at least 15 school hostel pupils submitted complaints relating to sexual harassment by the deputy-principal, including complaints of him spying on them”.

She added that the complaints were submitted on August 23 this year and that the deputy principal was subsequently suspended on October 1.

“This whole matter is very worrying indeed,” Rhoda stated. “Schools and school hostels are meant to be safe places for our children, yet they are increasingly becoming the playground of sexual predators,” said Rhoda.

“Not long ago, we learned of a teacher-in-training at a school in Orania who was accused of the statutory rape of a pupil. Just before that, there was the controversial re-appointment of a former Kakamas school principal as the school’s administrator, despite him having previously been found guilty on a sexual offence charge. After public outcry, the appointment was eventually rescinded.”

The DA urged the Northern Cape Department of Education to take a firmer stance against sexual misconduct cases in schools.

“The department should not take a month and a half to react to allegations of sexual crimes in schools. Rather, immediate precautionary suspensions should be enforced until such time as the law can be allowed to take its course,” Rhoda said.

“The department should also ensure that there are more measures in place to prevent teachers from taking advantage of pupils, especially in places such as school hostels, which especially make pupils vulnerable to offenders.

“Educators or officials found guilty of sexual misconduct should furthermore be banned for life from working with or being in close proximity to pupils. In this regard, the department should take a keener interest in the National Register for Sexual Offenders. They should take ownership of ensuring that the names of educators and officials found guilty of sexual offences are added to the list and that regular checks are done against this list.”

The Northern Cape Department of Education spokesperson, Geoffrey van der Merwe, yesterday confirmed that the department was aware of the allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against the deputy principal of the school in Colesberg.

“The department immediately placed the deputy principal on suspension while a formal investigation and the disciplinary processes could be concluded without any interference,” said Van der Merwe.

He added that the deputy principal had since his suspension been on sick leave, which impacted on the finalisation of the disciplinary hearing.

“The Department of Education views this offence in a very serious light and has taken a zero-tolerance stance on this matter. Should the allegations against the deputy principal be proved to be the truth, he will have to face the full might of the law,” said Van der Merwe.