Pretoria - Section27 has urged the Department of Education in the North West to place a school caretaker on the register of sexual offenders following his conviction for sexually assaulting two siblings.
The organisation welcomed the findings of a disciplinary inquiry held by the department to immediately dismiss a school caretaker after he was found guilty of sexual assault.
The incidents involved siblings, both minor pupils, who were sexually assaulted by the school caretaker in different incidents beginning in 2015.
The principal and school governing body failed to act against the caretaker.
Section27 spokesperson Pearl Nicodemus said the sexual assault of learners by teachers and school officials was widespread in South Africa.
She said the findings of this disciplinary inquiry offered some justice to the affected learners.
“While we welcome and even celebrate this outcome, it is important to note that the journey to justice took seven long years.
“This reflects the systemic failures within education and the justice system to hold perpetrators accountable, allowing them to continue violating more learners.
“After several failed attempts to get the governing body, the North West Department of Education and SAPS to act, we approached the court for an order directing them to act.
“The findings in the disciplinary committee are the culmination of the department’s statutory duties to investigate allegations of sexual assault and take action against accused perpetrators.
“The perpetrator in this case was a school caretaker at the time and has been found guilty of raping a female minor learner in 2015, and sexually assaulting that learner’s sister in 2017.
“The perpetrator pleaded not guilty on both charges of rape and sexual assault, but the disciplinary panel found him guilty after reviewing evidence provided by the survivors and their mother.
“Particularly relevant to this case was the caretaker’s role and position of authority at the school, with the chairperson of the disciplinary enquiry, Phillip Hozo, remarking in his report “in the education sector … the in loco parentis (in the place of a parent) principle reigns supreme…
“Schools are generally regarded as a safe haven for children. Therefore, schools are obliged to ensure that they address the problem of sexual abuse, harassment and related matters in light of legislative and policy measures.”
Nicodemus, however, said in this case, the parents of the learners reported the rape of their child to the school principal, but the perpetrator was not disciplined or suspended.