President Cyril Ramaphosa has condemned teachers having sexual relations with pupils. Picture: Supplied
Johannesburg - President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged teachers to pull up their socks in shielding learners from gender-based violence and sex pests who are among those responsible for teaching and protecting them in schools.

Ramaphosa was addressing the first day of the national congress of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) in Johannesburg on Wednesday, where he reiterated his concern at the increasing levels of gender-based violence and sexual assaults in the country.

“A sad reality is that such heinous crimes also happen in schools and other places of learning. Educators are often the best placed to notice when learners are victims or are at risk and we urge you to speak out,” Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa said the culture of silence by teachers empowered and enabled perpetrators to continue preying on pupils.

“There are too many reports of sexual relations with learners and you know this. This abhorrent behaviour must be decisively addressed and it must be stopped.

“As educators, your job is that of a parent to the children who come to your schools. You are not supposed to be the lovers of your children who come to your school,” he said.

He called on Sadtu to take a stand and be at the forefront in stopping teachers from sexually abusing pupils.

Ramaphosa said government understood that some teachers were too stressed and overburdened to notice some of the problems.

“We’re going to do everything we can to improve teaching conditions and school safety through increasing school infrastructure, and ensuring that schools have proper fencing, burglar alarms and functioning relationships with the local police and other services,” he said.

Ramaphosa told delegates that teachers were the key hope for the long-term success of the country and the government’s battle to improve the ailing economy and growing joblessness.

“Educators like yourselves have a tremendously important task of shaping the minds of impressionable young people and preparing them to make positive contributions to the world,” he said.

“We must all work harder to recruit more young people to the teaching profession. Attaining our goals means that we must have quality teachers in specific subjects in all geographic areas of our country,” he added.

Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke called on Ramaphosa’s administration to address the low salaries of teachers, including the massive disparities in the remuneration of Early Childhood Development teachers.

Ramaphosa admitted that while his administration worked hard to grow and transform the economy to create more jobs, little headway was being made.

“This unemployment rate is just not acceptable. It has to be brought down and it now requires all of us to apply our minds on how we are going to unlock the real energy of our economy so that we have an inclusive economy that is going to answer the issue of reducing poverty among all our people,” he said.

The elective congress, which will be addressed by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimande on Wednesday, will be concluded on Saturday.

Political Bureau