Cape Town - The Governing Body Foundation (GBF) made a call for schooling societies to have more open conversations regarding sexual grooming, in an attempt to curb incidents of sexual assault at schools.
Sexual grooming involves adults in positions of authority exploiting their relationships with minors for sexual purposes.
The foundation, which was founded to support and empower governing bodies in South African schools, said that it wanted to emphasise the urgency of addressing the issue and taking collective action to safeguard the welfare of children.
GBF spokesperson Anthea Cereseto said schooling communities needed to have more open dialogues about sexual grooming to increase awareness of protection measures that could be instituted for the safety and well-being of all students in educational institutions.
“The foundation has recognised the need to shed light on sexual grooming, because it poses a significant threat to young individuals in various educational settings. We want to raise awareness and encourage proactive measures to protect children and teenagers.”
Cereseto said the foundation has identified key points that include understanding the issue: complex tactics; preventive measures; challenging denial; boundary preservation; and, education and awareness to tackle the pervasive incidents.
“The GBF does not believe that a blanket ban on cellphones in schools is the most appropriate solution. There is a need for a multifaceted approach to tackle sexual grooming effectively. This approach involves not only parents, educators, and institutions, but also the entire community.
“By recognising the signs of grooming, staying vigilant, and equipping children with the knowledge to protect themselves, we can collectively work towards creating safer educational spaces,” Cereseto said.
According to the Western Cape Department of Education (WCED), in 2022 there were eight cases of sexual harassment and eight of sexual assault involving WCED educators or officials.
WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said: “The department refers to sexual grooming as sexual harassment or assault. All reports of sexual misconduct incidents are reported to SAPS and the SA Council of Educators if there is an educator involved.
“The incidents are also noted on Persal, the national register of public servants. In all cases, our Abuse No More protocol is implemented.”