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'Culture of silence on sexual abuse must be broken'

Crime & Courts
Johannesburg – The South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) on Tuesday called for the Gauteng Department of Education to ensure that there are serious consequences for those who failed to report and or act on the sexual abuse incidents at Parktown Boys High School.

“The culture of silence has to be broken,” said Sanco National Spokesperson, Jabu Mahlangu in a statement.

A water polo coach was seen on CCTV footage inappropriately touching learners at the school's boarding facilities.

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File picture: Supplied

Sanco has appealed for efforts to prevent and combat sexual abuse of learners to be redoubled and a dedicated call-line to be urgently established to root out what they described as hyenas preying on children in the schooling system.

The coach was arrested in November 2016 and granted R3 000 bail a month later.

He is facing charges of sexual assault and rape, which are a schedule six offence and carry a sentence of 15 years to life imprisonment.

“The Speak Out Youth Report Sexual Abuse-Handbook for learners on how to prevent sexual abuse in public schools must be extensively workshopped and issued to all high school learners,” Mahlangu said ahead of the coach’s Wednesday court appearance.

In March, there were only nine boy who had come forward about the incidents. The number has risen to 20 boys aged between 15 – 17 years old.

Mahlangu said that disciplinary processes and procedures need to be simplified for those accused of abusing learners to be summarily dismissed.

The coach was employed by the school's governing body, which told the African News Agency (ANA) two months ago that he resigned immediately after he was found out. No disciplinary action could be taken against him after he left.

However, a criminal case was opened against him.

Mahlangu stressed that firing principals and departmental officials who failed to take necessary steps against perpetrators would encourage victims to report incidents of abuse.

“Deepening awareness about unhealthy relationships, sexual exploitation and grooming will empower learners to identify risks and report advanced before they suffer physical, emotional and psychological damage,” he said.

A school governing body representative, Retha Adendorn, told ANA that following the discovery of what was happening at the school, a meeting was held and the "code of silence was torn up" and parents and learners were encouraged to come forward and assist with providing evidence against the coach.

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