Reports that two teachers at Umlazi Comprehensive High School have been suspended for sexual misconduct after allegedly being involved with a learner are of deep concern to the Democratic Alliance. The incident is an alarming indication of the abuse of power and illicit conduct that exists within our schools – a fact supported by figures released by the South African Council of Educators (SACE) last year which showed that KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) has one of the highest numbers of sexual offences within schools.
While the DA welcomes the suspension of the two educators in this latest case, it is still not enough. Nor are measures taken by the DoE as a result of past disciplinary hearings. The DA has long-called on the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Department of Education (DoE) to make sure that any educator who appears on the sexual offences register is not re-employed in any area where there are children. Yet, to date, there is no evidence that this is taking place.
Given the seriousness of this scourge, it is critical that any internal investigation relating to sexual misconduct, undertaken by the DoE, be multipronged and that it also involve the South African Police Service (SAPS). Meanwhile, SACE – as the body that regulates the profession – must also be directly involved in all processes.
While it is important to ensure that the public remains informed about such matters, divulging information must also be done in a responsible manner. The sensitivity of the matter has great potential to traumatise learners, parents and educators before reaching finality. It is therefore also critical that the victims of this gross violation of trust also receive the necessary counselling, which must be provided by the DoE in conjunction with the province’s Social Development department.
The DA sincerely hopes that this latest incident will be treated as a priority by KZN Education MEC, Kwazi Mtethwa and his department and that the investigation will be finalised as a matter of urgency. In the event that the accusations are proved to be true the full might of the law must be exercised.