Sexual Abuse of Learners Progress Report: briefing

Basic Education

23 June 2003
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Meeting report

PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION (JOINT SITTING WITH PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT)

EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE: JOINT MEETING
24 June 2003
SEXUAL ABUSE OF LEARNERS PROGRESS REPORT: BRIEFING


Chairperson: Prof. S M Mayatula

Documents handed out:
Sexual Abuse of Learners: Progress Report to the Portfolio Committee on Education

SUMMARY
Members of the Education and Social Development Portfolio Committees were impressed with the progress that the Department of Education had made in dealing with the abuse of learners in schools. They were interested in ways that the Department was trying to implement programmes and policies that were trying to end the abuse of learners in schools. They asked the department to fast track the implementation of the programmes and policies that were trying to eliminate the abuse of learners in schools. They were also interested in procedures that the Department took in cases of abuse.

MINUTES
Ms Tyobeka (Chief Director) presented on the progress that the Department had made in dealing with the abuse of learners in schools. She noted that there was a positive association between dysfunctional schools and the rate of the abuse of learners. The physical structure of schools also contributed to either deter or enhance abusive acts. The Department was dealing with the abuse of learners by other learners and by the educators and that there was a restorative justice approach for guilty learners and a disciplinary one for guilty teachers through the Employment of Educators Act.

She outlined the process leading to the Departments policies and programmes on abused learners. She listed and explained the policies and programmes and their progress. The Department was developing a comprehensive approach which would include different government departments and social organisations in dealing with the abuse of learners.

Discussion
Ms Mentor (ANC) said that she and her children directly benefited from the training that the Department provided for dealing with the abuse of learners in schools. The Department would be doing itself a disservice if it did not fast track its impact analysis. She said this in light of public opinion that that the government was not protecting children.

Ms Tyobeka agreed to the importance of an impact analysis and noted the comment.

Mr. Da Camara (DP) asked if the Department created links between the school governing bodies and the community police forums. Ms Tyobeka said that such links were being progressively implemented through the Safe Schools Policy.

Mr. Da Camara explained an American model used to curb learner abuse in schools. He had no name for the model. However, he emphasised that it was for and by the learners.

Ms Tyobeka had no reference to such a model. The Department was reviewing different models and that it was open to others. The Department was planning to include learners themselves in developing models.

Ms Borman (DA) asked if the Department had statistics of learners and teachers who abused learners. Mr Waters (Task Group on the Sexual Abuse of Children and member of DA) later asked a similar question.

Ms Tyobeka said that the Department had no such statistics. She emphasised that their approach was that one abuse was one too many.

Mr. Waters (DP) asked what were the procedures for restorative justice for learners and the disciplinary procedures for teachers.

Ms Tyobeka said that the each case was dealt with individually and that the main aim of the restorative justice approach was not to give up on learners who abused others. With regard to teachers, she said that if they were accused, they would be suspended and expelled if found guilty.

The Chairperson added that the Schools Act had provided criteria for dealing with teachers who were guilty of abusive offences towards learners.

Mr. Kgwele (ANC) asked if the Department developed any link between school governing bodies and the moral regeneration programmes.

Ms Tyobeka said that there was no link established thus far.

He asked the extent in which teacher unions were involved in the programmes for dealing with the abuse of learners in schools

Ms Tyobeka said that the teacher unions were involved especially at provincial level. She however said that they were not as involved as it should be because the Department had to overlook them due to time constraints in developing and implementing some policies and programmes.

Mr. Kgwele asked if the call centres that the Department was planning to create would be outsourced. He asked this question with the opinion that it would be not right to outsource the call centres because the information that would be gathered from them needed to be collected by educationists and not by a private company.

Ms Tyobeka said that the call centres would not be outsourced and that educationists would receive the information from abused learners.

Ms Rajbally (MF) asked if there was progress with the campaign to teach learners about child abuse. Which community organisations had been involved?

Ms Tyobeka reported good progress and also said that women's organisations were part of the campaign.

Mr. Mpontshane (IFP) commended the Department for the presentation said that the intentions of the Department's programme were very noble. He then asked why the Department was allowing television programmes like Yizo Yizo to be on air because they were regressive to the objectives of moral regeneration.

Ms Tyobeka said that the Department was aware of what public members had been saying about Yizo Yizo, but that the Department reserved the right to support such programmes if they had an educational value.

Mr. Mpontshane asked if cultural factors had been taken into consideration in trying to come up with the definition of sexual harassment. He reckoned that sometimes by looking straight into a woman's face could be regarded as sexual harassment and he said that such definitions were ridiculous.

Ms Mentor (ANC) said that such definitions were not ridiculous and that if an action made one uncomfortable it should be stopped.

The Chairperson said that this should not be turned into a debate. He said that if someone was uncomfortable with another person's gesture then they had to stop that gesture and respect the cultural meaning of the other person.

Mr. Mpontshane asked if the Girls' Parliament would not perpetuate the idea that girls were different. Ms Tyobeka said that it was important that girls be given channels such as the Girls Empowerment Movement to empower themselves given the history of discrimination against women. She however said that such programmes did not discriminate against boys but that girls needed priority.

Mr. Mfundisi (UCDP) asked what the Department was doing with safety of rural children who walked long distance between school and home.

Ms Tyobeka said that the problem would be looked into.

Mr. Ntuli (DP) asked the form of interaction that the Department, SAIS and teacher unions had.

Ms Tyobeka said that it was in a form of formal meetings to discuss progress and monitoring.

Mr. Ntuli (DP) asked what the Department had in mind for the rehabilitation of both victims and perpetrators in the context of restorative justice.

Ms Tyobeka said that the process involved parents, schools and social workers and that there was no standard procedure yet because the process was new and developing.

Prof. Ripinga (ANC) asked if the problem of child abuse was incorporated into teacher training curriculum. Ms Tyobeka agreed that it was incorporated for student teachers and advanced teachers.

Chairperson asked if the Department liased with Physical Planning in building or revamping schools. Ms Tyobeka agreed.

Mr. Saloojee (ANC, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development) said that the progress of the programme was exciting and encouraging. He added that it was not true South Africa was betraying its children because there was never such a programme before to protect learners and children against abuse.

Adoption of minutes
Minutes of the 3rd and 17th June 2003 were adopted and after some announcements the meeting was adjourned.

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