DURBAN - THE Department of Education has gazetted new employment regulations detailing how it will deal with sex pest teachers and those found guilty of other misconduct, including assault, who seek re-entry to the profession.
The regulations were gazetted by Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga last Friday. Motshekga said the aim of these new regulations was to regulate the period of prevention of re-employment of former teachers dismissed or deemed dismissed for misconduct or deemed resigned. She said this would also provide for a procedure for the re-employment of former teachers.
According to the gazette, any person who has been found guilty of sexual offences committed against children and mentally disabled people and whose names appear on the National Child Protection Register and the National Register of Sex Offenders, cannot be employed unless their names have been removed from such registers.
In addition, teachers who committed an act of sexual assault on a pupil, or other employee, or have a sexual relationship with a pupil of the school would face an indefinite ban.
Other acts or conduct that carry an indefinite ban include:
◆ Seriously assaulting a pupil or employee with the intention to cause grievous bodily harm.
◆ Illegal possession of an intoxicating, illegal or stupefying substance.
◆ Sexual harassment involving pupils.
◆ A court finding and conviction for murder, attempted murder, rape, indecent assault or assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
Reacting to the new terms and conditions, the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) in KwaZulu-Natal said the regulations were long overdue.
Naptosa’s KZN chief executive Thirona Moodley said they would support the regulations as the union believed that there must be a strong message sent out to educators found guilty of such acts of misconduct.
“This will serve as a deterrent to perpetrators that the consequences of sexual assault against learners are very serious. The motive and intention behind the gazette must be acknowledged and appreciated,” she said.
Moodley added that the regulations helped to protect the integrity of the profession and to ensure the safety of pupils.
Nomusa Cembi, national spokesperson of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), shared the same sentiments and said this would provide uniformity in line with the public servants’ code.
Cembi said previously there were no clear guidelines regarding the employment of teachers in cases where there had been misconduct and a teacher was found guilty.
“This will go a long way towards ensuring the integrity of the profession. From now on, people have a clear indication of the laws that are there,” said Cembi.
Child Rights and Child Protection consultant, Joan van Niekerk, said that the National Child Protection Register and the National Register of Sex Offenders registers had not been used in many schools.
She said that many schools, especially in rural areas, were not using the registers to screen teachers at all.
“It is shocking that if you go to a school in your area, and asked if the teachers have been screened in the registers, they would probably not even know what it is. The registers have been in existence for over 20 years, however, they are not functional,” she said.
According to Van Niekerk, people who have been found to have abused children should not be allowed to teach ever again.
She said child protection must be ensured as there were some offenders who repeatedly commit such crimes because there are no consequences.
“The regulations are positive and long overdue, and we believe that they will ensure protection of children.
“The department should ensure that every school screens all their staff against the register. The regulations will mean nothing if the register is not used,” said Van Niekerk.