Child safety at SA schools to be addressed

The Adopt-a-School Foundation is set to address child safety in schools following the recent unfolding reports of the sexual abuse cases of 87 girls at a Soweto primary school.

Steven Lebere, executive director of the Adopt-a-School Foundation, said the atrocities had “left our nation reeling”.

“How are we to achieve our potential as a country, when our own children face sexual violation and abuse at school – the places where they are supposed to be protected and nurtured, by the people we have entrusted with their safety,” he said.

The Adopt-a- School Foundation strongly believes that the justice system should swiftly deal with the ongoing trial of the perpetrator and that the maximum sentence be imposed for these heinous crimes.

“The government must continue to offer counselling to the children involved as well as their peers and families,” Lebere added.

Educators and school management teams must be supported to deal with the safety risks prevalent in schools and society at large.

“Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Through our work in schools with our partner entities, the foundation has observed, and responded to, the increase in cases of abuse affecting our learners. The prevalence of this crime in schools is robbing our children of their youth, and the country of its future. The violation of children’s basic right to protection from abuse is a national crisis and must be stopped,” Lebere said.

One in every five sexual abuse cases that are reported in South Africa happen in schools.

The foundation is a partner with the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation (CRF) and is actively responding to these social challenges by investing and contributing towards the development of South Africa’s rural and township schools. Through their holistic programmes, a large focus is placed on the safety and social well-being of schoolchildren.

Last month, the CRF launched the Thari programme for the support of women and children. The programme is aimed at providing psychosocial support services and safe spaces at schools for vulnerable children, youths and women.

The programme aims to strengthen the systems in place for screening individuals who work with these children. The programme brings together multiple stakeholders in the community in an effort to build awareness and education around abuse, ensuring that signs of abuse and trauma can be identified and addressed.