The Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities is concerned about the allegations of serious sexual misconduct against a teacher at Cape Town private school Bishops Diocesan College.
“It is disconcerting that spaces intended to be safe for children to learn and thrive are nodes in which gender-based violence is perpetrated,” committee chairperson Nonhlanhla Ncube-Ndaba said in a statement.
The boys’ school in the well-off suburb of Rondebosch is investigating allegations against history teacher and water polo coach Fiona Viotti regarding a reported sexual relationship with an 18-year-old matric pupil.
Viotti has resigned, but school principal Guy Pearson said earlier this week that several boys “have been affected over a number of years”.
According to Ncube-Ndaba, the committee commends the courage of the boy and many other boys who have stepped forward and said “not in my name, me too”.
“It was not so long ago that scholars across Cape Town protested to stand in solidarity and say #EnoughisEnough,” reads the statement.
The committee said the exploitation of pupils in schools by people in positions of power – in this case, a teacher – had become far too common.
“Whilst the committee respects the processes under way to deal with the matter, the committee urges the Department of Basic Education to revisit its policies in schools – as all children have a right to be safe, including the boy child.
“Notwithstanding the importance of focusing on the girl child, the boy child cannot and should not be left behind. The Sexual Offences and Related Matters Act makes clear provision for what constitutes rape, sexual assault and sexual grooming.”
The committee wants to focus on whether the current provisions that are in place within schools are adequate to deal with:
- Reporting process for children as victims of GBV;
- Prevention of secondary abuse – dealing with victimisation;
- Support interventions in place for victims; and
- Vetting of persons employed to work with children in schools.
A school probe into the allegations is still under way, with Pearson calling for anyone with more information to come forward.
No charges have been laid, Western Cape police said on Thursday.