Child Protection Month

A perspective for School Governance

 This is in dedication to children

 Across the province in South Africa, awareness is heightened in terms of child abuse, deliberate neglect and sexual offences against children this month. As governors we also have a moral obligation and an important role to play.

I am reminded of a quote by the late Nelson Mandela “Our children are our greatest treasure. They are our future. Those who abuse them tear at the fabric of our society and weaken our nation.”

The WCED’s Abuse No More Protocol sets it out clearly for School Governing Bodies on how to manage the process.  Suggested  Guidelines in terms of punitive measures against staff employed by the School Governing Body due to misconduct is set out in annexure H. This applies to anyone who applies for an  SGB post, be it teaching or non –teaching including volunteers.  The guideline states that SGBs should ensure  that applicants who are considered for appointment have not been found guilty of an offence against a child in terms of the  Sexual Offences Act,2007 (Act 32 of 2007) or the Children’s  Act , 2005   ( Act 38 of 2005).

Further screening should be conducted against, both the National Protection Register and the Sexual Offenders Registers. The school manager will complete Form 29 and send it off to the Director–General of Social Development to check if any names appear on the register.

Governors should bear in mind that it is an offence punishable by up to 10 years in prison, or a fine, or both, to allow access to children if you have been found unsuitable to work with children ( Section 305(1) (c). If a person did not disclose to the SGB information regarding been found unsuitable to work with children, he or she could be dismissed.

School Governing Bodies should ensure that contracts  make provision for disciplinary  measures that address the allegations of child abuse. Some stipulations that could be included are suspension, ending of contracts and particular sanctions that relate to the nature of the offence.

School Governing Bodies will always act within the best interest of the child during disciplinary hearings. This will include the child’s safety during a hearing, ensure the child has access to an intermediary irrespective of the child’s age, the child has the right to choose any person to accompany him or her for support. To name but a few.

The involvement of Public Media should be referred to the designated spokesperson and under no circumstances are SGB members and other persons involved allowed to divulge any information of such a sensitive nature. The identity of the victim and alleged perpetrator should be kept confidential at all times.  Focus should be on giving support to the victim, his or her parents or guardians, not forgetting support for the alleged offender in the event of learner on learner abuse.

In conclusion we are all responsible for ensuring that our children are protected against all forms of abuse be it physical, verbal, deliberate neglect and sexual offences. Let it never be ok and accepted and not our business. Legislation compels us to deal with the problem in the most effective and efficient way.

Source of information:  WCED Abuse No More Protocol booklet (2014)