The latest arrest has apparently provided further evidence that the war on school sex predators must go beyond the school guards. In the recent case, the driver allegedly repeatedly touched the learner inappropriately while she was boarding the bus, according to Gauteng police spokesperson Colonel Lungelo Dlamini.
He said on Sunday they had arrested the bus driver for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl. He said a case of sexual assault had been opened against the driver and he would appear in the Lenasia Magistrate’s Court today.
Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said: “Fortunately, he (the bus driver) will never be allowed in our schooling environment (again). These activities will not be allowed to prevail in our space.”
The bus driver incident is one of numerous cases that have been reported in recent weeks. In Mamelodi, Tshwane, a school patroller was arrested for allegedly raping a pupil during a matric dance. In Soweto, a 57-year-old patroller was remanded in custody for allegedly sexually assaulting 87 schoolgirls. He is expected back in court on Wednesday for a bail application.
News of the bus driver’s arrest came as the provincial education department and Community Safety were Sunday engaged in a marathon meeting with school patrollers in an effort to regulate them and make schools safer.
At the meeting, Lesufi told them that the department was working on reviewing their contracts. The provincial government had now started the process of vetting patrollers.
“Come January, there’ll be no patroller in our schools who isn’t vetted. We are introducing a uniform code of conduct for all of you. You break that conduct, you will be fired immediately,” Lesufi warned.
“This (security) sector must be formalised to avoid us going through the problems we are now going through. We must have a way of communicating with this sector so that we can ensure at all costs we are together,” he added.
The meeting with the patrollers is part of the work being done by a committee set up by Gauteng Premier David Makhura last week to deal with sexual assaults in schools. One of the aims of the committee is to re-evaluate all of the 6 000 patrollers in schools and to appoint life orientation teachers as the first contact to report abuse.
“Two hundred cars will also be handed over to the police, 75 to traffic officers, and 60 bikes to the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit in the fight against gender-based violence,” Makhura said last week.
The committee is made up of Lesufi, Community Safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane and Social Development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza. In the next few weeks, they are expected to meet with schools, communities and NGOs.
The DA has asked that a commission of inquiry be launched to look into the high number of sexual abuses in schools, but Makhura said this was not the answer.
Community Safety spokesperson Busaphi Nxumalo said some of the issues highlighted in the meeting included ill-discipline in some of the patrol groups.
“We also have to deal with issues of equipment and uniform for patrollers deployed at schools,” Nxumalo said, adding that the department wanted regular meetings with patrollers.
“With the issue of criminals masquerading as patrollers, we agreed that there was a need to vet patrollers again so that we know who is in the system, because we see there is a problem,” Nxumalo said.
Vetting will include checking if prospective school patrollers have criminal records.
The Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority has also called for stricter measures to ensure that security guards at schools are vetted. The organisation said schools should ensure that guards are registered with the body.
“We are serious about our work. If you will not adhere to our rules or you misbehave, we will part ways with you.”
But the chairperson of the Gauteng Patrollers Forum, John Monoa, claims the department did not inform them about the meeting. He claims he was told only at 11am about Sunday’s meeting.
According to Monoa, the qualified patrollers were not present at the meeting.
The organisation has blamed the department’s termination of their contracts for the increase in sexual abuses at schools.