Durban - More school children have made sexual abuse complaints against teachers in KwaZulu-Natal than in any other province in the past three years.
Of 82 sexual abuse complaints to the South African Council of Educators for 2013-14, 23 were from KZN.
The statistics were released by the Department of Basic Education in response to a parliamentary question by DA MP Sonja Boshoff.
On Sunday, Boshoff said the reply showed an average of 101 incidents took place each year with 28 complaints already received this year.
It is not known how many offences were committed in each province before 2011 because the department did not classify complaints by province before then.
However, 25 of the 126 cases reported in 2011-12 were from KZN. In 2012-13 the province again led with 24 of 97 cases.
Only 64 percent of the 2011-12 KZN cases were finalised by the council and 88 percent of the 2012-13 cases.
So far, the council has finalised 78 percent of the cases countrywide (16 of those from KZN) for 2013-14.
Boshoff said the finalisation rate of cases was disturbing and unsatisfactory.
“A large number of investigations are carried over into the following year owing to parents limiting the council’s access to children,” she said.
According to the report, most cases were withdrawn as parents refused investigators access to their children as witnesses - which had an impact on the number of cases finalised.
Boshoff said the report did not indicate how many cases had been handed over to the police for criminal investigation, “nor is there any clarity on how many have undergone successful criminal prosecution”.
It was worrying that some teachers under suspicion were left in classrooms because their cases had not been finalised, she said.
Boshoff called for Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and the council to jointly engage the issue urgently and act swiftly in accordance with section 17 of the Employment of Educators Act.
This act stipulates that a teacher has to be dismissed if found guilty of sexually assaulting a pupil.
“I will write to the chief executive of the South African Council of Educators, Rej Brijraj, and request a meeting to discuss what interventions will be put in place to protect our pupils from these abuses,” said Boshoff.
Education spokesman Elijah Mhlanga referred queries to the council, saying the organisation had the power to strike teachers off the roll if they were found guilty of a sexual assault on a pupil.
“Once the teacher has been struck off, it means that they can never practise again,” said Mhlanga.
Brijraj could not be contacted by the time of going to press.