The number of cases of sexual misconduct reported to the SA Council of Educators (SACE) last year, has risen quite dramatically from 92 in 2019/20 to 169 in 2020/21 and 191 in 2021/22. The Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, revealed this in answer to a written parliamentary question by the DA.
Given the 199 school days last year, that’s almost one case of sexual misconduct a day reported to SACE.
The 2022 crime statistics indicates a total of 294 rapes reported to have occurred on the premises of educational institutions (schools, universities, college, and day care facilities).
The DA finds it very concerning that SACE only instituted 23 disciplinary proceedings last year – a mere 12% of the reported cases of sexual misconduct. Of these 19 educators were found guilty of sexual misconduct, yet only four were struck off the roll indefinitely.
SACE indicated that some cases were closed due to lack of evidence to substantiate the allegations, deliberate unavailability of complainants to assist with the investigation/disciplinary proceedings, and witnesses refusing to cooperate with the Council.
The complainants’ reluctance to cooperate with SACE in investigating and disciplining their alleged abusers indicates a perceived bias against the victims of abuse. SACE must take responsibility for this perception and ensure that disciplinary hearings are environments where alleged victims and witnesses feel safe, are protected from further trauma, and where evidence and testimony from both parties are examined in an objective and sensitive manner.
The DA also suggests that SACE takes appropriate steps to better categorise cases to ensure effective oversight of processes and procedures. Without a thorough analysis of data, no institution can critically access its effectiveness.
In a country where sexual crimes are ever on the rise, schools must be safe havens where learners, educators and staff should only have focus on quality education. In holding abusers to account, SACE plays a crucial role in creating a safe environment. The Council must ensure that victims of sexual abuse are protected when reporting these crimes and that guilty abusers suffer the consequences for their heinous actions.