Debbie Schafer, MPP
Western Cape Minister of Education
Note: Below is an extract from Minister Debbie Schäfer’s speech to be delivered today at the launch of the WCED Abuse No More Protocol Document (Amended Abuse No More Protocol Document attached)
It is an unfortunate reality that each day, the safety and well-being of many children across South Africa are threatened by child abuse and neglect.
In 1997 the Human Sciences Research Council released a report claiming that child rape in South Africa had reached ‘epidemic proportions’. Between 1993 and 1996, child abuse cases reported to the South African Police Service’s Child Protection Unit increased by 47%, from 15 224 to 32 033 cases, with 18 079 of these being cases of child rape. Five years later, on 15 May 2002, it was reported in Parliament that out of 15 650 child rapes reported to the police in South Africa between January and September 2001, 5 859 were of children between 0 and 11 years of age.
This means that approximately 10% of all rapes reported during that period in South Africa were of children under the age of 12.
A report compiled by Solidarity Helping Hand said that while there were about 60 cases of child rape reported in South Africa every day, more than 88% of child rapes were never reported. If this is correct, it means that about 530 child rapes take place every day – which is one rape every three minutes.
Intervening effectively in the lives of these children and their families is not the sole responsibility of any single agency or professional group, but rather is a shared community concern. Educators have a special role to play in dealing with this problem, along with doctors, nurses and social workers. In fact, people in these professions are required by law to respond to signs of child abuse.
The Abuse No More document for dealing with child abuse was developed in 1999 by the WCED in co-operation with other departments and non-governmental organisations to develop a guide for the management of child abuse. The document was officially launched in 2001 by the then Education MEC, now Premier, Helen Zille. Since then various developments relating to the care and protection of children culminated in the update of existing and promulgation of new legislation such as the Children’s Act, 38 of 2005, Sexual Offences and Related Matters Act, 32 of 2007, Child Justice Act, 75 of 2008 and related amendments to WCED policies. For this reason the child abuse protocol document needed to be amended to be in alignment with the relevant legislation and policy documents.
Child abuse, deliberate neglect and sexual offences against children are serious challenges that currently exist in communities and educational institutions throughout South Africa. Because of the high prevalence this protocol has been developed to help institutions, employees and learners of the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) to deal with the problem in the most efficient and effective way.
The legislation highlights the responsibility of educators who may suspect or deal with disclosures of child abuse and sexual offences against children, and the educators’ mandatory duty to report such incidents in the prescribed manner.
All WCED employees must ensure that they are fully conversant with the reporting procedures and the content of this protocol and that they have a clear understanding of their roles in the management of child abuse and sexual offences against children.
The best interest of the child (victim or offender) will be the overriding factor and this will govern how the process is managed when a report of child abuse, deliberate neglect or sexual offence is made. South African legislation provides for a mandatory duty to report and failure to do so is a criminal offence.
This document also highlights the responsibility of the principal to implement, manage and sustain the protocol and procedures described in this document in such a manner that confidentiality and the best interests of the child is maintained at all times.
Effective management of these problems can be achieved only if procedures are based on a strong legal foundation. Therefore, in drafting this protocol, all relevant legislation regarding children has been considered and applied. In addition, a multi-disciplinary approach to enhancing the partnership and collaboration with state departments and child protection organisations forms the foundation of managing child abuse, deliberate neglect and sexual offences against children.
Amendments made to the policy include:
- While the previous document focused on managing child abuse, the revised document deals with child abuse, deliberate neglect and sexual offences against children
- Provision for sensitivity to children below the age of 10 who are deemed not to have criminal capacity in terms of the Child Justice Act.
- The role of the school social worker to facilitate and support has been expanded, for example, to ensure child friendly questioning.
- The role of the teacher in terms of managing the disclosure has been expanded, but in addition guidelines are provided on how to manage suspicion of abuse. Guidance is provided to educators regarding their role in referring and not jeopardising the evidence or subjecting the child to additional trauma. The aim is that the child only discloses once and for the disclosure to be managed appropriately
- Should it be alleged that a School Governing Body appointed educator has abused a learner, previously the SGB would have the SGB hearing and if the person was found guilty, the SGB would then dismiss the educator. With the new amendments in legislation as reflected in section 110 of the Children’s Act and section 54 of the Sexual Offences Act there is duty to report to SAPS and the Department of Social Development as these two pieces of legislation have registers for people not suited to work with children (Children’s Act) and the Sexual offences act has a register for those found guilty of a sexual offence. Previously should the SGB dismiss educators who were found guilty, those educators would move from school to school where they would reoffend. As these appointments are done by the School Governing Body, the Western Cape Education Department does not investigate.
- In 1999, the Western Cape Education Department only had 4 school social workers. The Western Cape Education Department acknowledged the need for more social workers in schools. Additional posts have incrementally been created and since 2014 the Western Cape Education Department has 49 permanent school social workers, one per circuit.
- The role of Western Cape Education Department school social workers is therefore crucial not only in terms of individual support to learners but in providing prevention and development services to schools.
A working group, consisting of school social workers (Dr Rochshana Kemp, Jessica Hoorn-Fortuin and Sura Swart) and a Senior Public Prosecutor from the National Prosecuting Authority (Lizelle Africa) undertook the task of amending the document.
The Amended Abuse No More Protocol (2014) was developed in consultation and collaboration with school social workers and the heads of Specialised Learner and Educator Support of the 8 district offices, the Department of Health, Department of Social Development, South African Police Service, Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, National Prosecuting Authority, Western Cape Education Department, Department of the Premier and the Provincial Gender Justice Forum representing the above departments and the following organisations/institutions: Mosaic, Child line, Women’s Legal Centre, Law Resource Centre, Cape Law Society, Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (RAPCAN), Rape Crisis, University of Cape Town, University of the Western Cape, Activists Networking Against the Exploitation of Children in Human Trafficking and Child Labour and Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT).
The representation of organisations present today is a reflection of good partnerships and collaboration with state departments, Non-Government Organisations, as well as Community Based Organisation’s to ensure effective management of child abuse.
This provincial launch is therefore crucial for the provincial departments and organisations to have an understanding of the roles and responsibilities of provincial role players in managing child abuse, deliberate neglect and sexual offences against children.
Copies of Abuse No More: Dealing Effectively with Child Abuse have been circulated to all schools, along with a training video. Educators can ask principals to make these available should she or he not have done so already.
Child abuse in South Africa is a problem, and we need to act decisively in dealing with it.
Thank you for your interest in dealing with this severe social problem. With your help, there is much we can do to make our world a safer place for the children in our care.