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Durban - The South African Council of Educators (SACE) had failed victims of sexual abuse and those groomed within the country's education system, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) said on Wednesday. 

The party further said that "urgent and immediate action" was needed to strengthen screening and vetting processes used by SACE. 

"According to the 2018/19 Annual Report tabled by SACE, the province of KwaZulu-Natal recorded the highest number of misdemeanours conducted by teachers against pupils. This is simply unacceptable, and the rise in sexual misconduct cases being reported requires urgent intervention," said IFP KZN spokesperson on education, Thembeni KaMadlopha-Mthethwa. 

She said that 128 cases of overall misconduct were reported in KZN, of which 21 were of a sexual nature. 

Thirty-six cases were related to verbal abuse, harassment and defamation.  

"It is disheartening that the failure of SACE and the KZN Department of Education to properly vet and screen teachers entering the profession have seen the lives of young pupils destroyed and psychologically damaged.

"One case is one too many, we cannot send our children to school simply for them to return home broken, battered and abused. This, coupled with the increase of violence at schools and the prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse among the youth, is worrying," said KaMadlopha-Mthethwa.  

She said the IFP called on KZN's education MEC, Kwazi Mshengu, to urgently meet with SACE and various stakeholders to ensure proper screening took place.   

"Sexual offenders have no place in the education profession. KwaZulu-Natal can ill-afford these shocking number of cases as the learners are the ones who have to bear the brutal brunt and suffer the consequences in our classrooms.

"We cannot expect miraculous results when our learners are being taught in environments which are not conducive to teaching and learning," she said. 

The IFP believed that stronger action by SACE and the education department were key to addressing sexual abuse in schools, said KaMadlopha-Mthethwa.

"Our learners come first as their education is a Constitutional right. We will work together with the department and law enforcement to ensure that those who commit crimes against children see the full might of the law."

African News Agency (ANA)