Cape Town-140224. Various delegates including the Inter-Agency Task Team on Education of UNAIDS (convened by UNESCO) and the School of Public Health from UWC attended a symposium on the role of schools and the education sector in sexual violence prevention at various schools and instituitions around the peninsula today. Here the silhouette of a schoool pupil can be seen in the canteen at Christel House, one of the places visited by the delegation. Reporter: Warren Fortuin pic: Jason Boud

Cape Town -

A staggering 40 percent of all rape victims in South Africa were children - children who were being forgotten not only by society, but by the government as well.

This was this issue raised when the University of the Western Cape’s School of Public Health and the Sonke Gender Justice Network hosted a UNAids Inter-Agency Task Team on Education. They and others visited city schools on Monday to hear problems and evaluate the role education can play in preventing sexual violence.

According to Sonke, there are an estimated one-and-a-half-million rapes in South Africa a year, 15 percent involving children under 11.

Sonke head Dean Peacock said that most children saw and experienced sexual violence at home.

“We want schools to be a place where children can get the support they need. They need psycho-social support in the school so that they can make sense of and understand the violence,” he said. “It is in the interest of the school to get the support the students need. We just have after-the-fact deterrence such as arrests, and campaigns, but real on-the-ground work is not happening, and schools are critical for that.”

Peacock said that the government needed a national strategic plan to provide victims of violence with resources such as psychologists and funding for teacher education.

“It is unacceptable that the government does not have plans to address these situations. This is why we pay taxes. Teachers need to be trained, and resources like social workers need to be made available,” he said.

One of the destinations of Monday’s mobile seminar was Tafelsig High School in Mitchells Plain. Principal Ruchda O’Shea said the Tafelsig area had the highest number of teenage pregnancies, rape and gang violence in greater Mitchell’s Plain. Her pupils were feeling the brunt of socio-economic issues in the community, and getting little support.

“We do not have a lot of support to deal with a learner who has been sexually abused… A lot of the girls are raped at home… We do not have the resources or the support from the Western Cape Education Department.”

O’Shea said there was only one psychologist available for the 50 schools in Mitchell’s Plain, compared to some model C schools that had one per school. “Our children are abused too regularly.

“We want community engagement where parents and neighbours are watching over children.”

O’Shea said one of the initiatives adopted at Tafelsig to help pupils cope was starting an after-care programme at which they could learn about various life skills. The school also used peer counsellors.

UNAids member Dorothea Coppard said that prevention of HIV and Aids could not take place until the issue of sexual violence was addressed.

Schools were a key to finding solutions to this. - Cape Argus

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