News / South Africa
Six years after a then 12-year-old North West girl first reported having been raped by a caretaker at her school and with the authorities still not having taken any action against him, her fight for justice is now headed for the courts.
Represented by public interest law centre Section 27, the Teddy Bear Clinic – together with the girl’s parents – have approached the North West High Court in a bid have the department of education and the police ordered to investigate.
In the meantime, they also want the girl’s alleged rapist – who today still occupies the same position at the school – placed on precautionary suspension.
Section27 spokesperson Boitumelo Masipa told The Citizen that, according to the girl, in 2015 the man lured her onto the school premises after hours, raped her and paid her R20 for her silence.
Regardless, several weeks later she opened up to her parents.
When her parents confronted the principal, however, Masipa said they were told it wasn’t his problem. And when they tried to open a case at their local police station, they were told it was too late.
A year later, the man was also accused of sexually assaulting the girl’s then nine-year-old sister and paying her R5 to keep quiet.
The principal, the school governing body, the department of basic education and the Police Minister Bheki Cele have all been cited as respondents in the case.
Section27 said they had “collectively failed to act efficiently and effectively to defend the rights of the children concerned”.
“The inaction of the education and policing authorities, who have a responsibility to protect the rights of children from sexual abuse but have failed to do so in these incidents, makes them complicit in perpetuating gender-based violence. The sexual assault of the minor’s younger sister might have been prevented had authorities taken their statutory and constitutional obligations to act,” said the centre.
Section27 attorney Zeenat Sujee said the fact that the man was still working at the school was “shocking”.
“It is concerning to realise that the perpetrator continues to have unrestricted access to prey on children at the school.
Despite authorities being made aware of the sexual misconduct of the caretaker and the reported incidents, still no action has been taken against the caretaker for his alleged repeated acts of sexual abuse of minors,” Sujee said.
In August, the basic education department appeared before parliament and revealed it had received 275 reports of sexual misconduct over the last two financial years.
Internationally renowned child rights and child protection consultant Joan van Niekerk said the number of children who were assaulted at schools in South Africa was a concern.
And she highlighted that the available data only reflected the tip of the iceberg, with a large portion of incidents going unreported.
Van Niekerk said it was crucial for parents to foster open lines of communication with their children to ensure that if anything untoward did ever happen, they weren’t afraid to report it.