News of a Soweto school’s security guard who allegedly molested 54 grade R school girls made headlines last week. The incidents came to light following a complaint to the principle by a mother whose daughter had been violated.
Following the incident, the principle instructed teachers to question all girls in their classes, after which a list of 54 names were drawn up.
As chance would have it, the CarerCheck Workshop was held a day before the incident made the headlines. Aimed at members of school boards and councils, as well as school principles, the purpose of the workshop was to educate attendees about liability concerning the conduct of staff. Turns out that it isn’t something that’s properly understood.
CarerCheck Workshop insights
Where cases of abuse or other criminal incidents occur at schools, the natural course of action is to determine which party is at fault. Given that all staff appointments are made by the Department of Basic Education, it is naturally assumed that the department should carry responsibility for those events where members of staff break the law. This according to feedback received at the CarerCheck workshop.
According to the Children’s Act (38 of 2005) and the Sexual Offences and Related Matters Act (32 of 2007), all employers and licensing authorities of persons in any industry that work directly with children should screen all current and prospective employees and volunteers for their suitability to work with children.
So it’s a fair point; if it’s a government department doing the hiring, why should the school’s management be held accountable?
But the reality is that the safety of the children is ultimately the responsibility of the headmaster and the decision-making governing bodies and councils. As such, the conduct of staff – from teachers to caretakers – ultimately becomes their responsibility too.
Where a child is harmed in the care of a school employee, volunteer, tutor, etc. who has not been adequately screened, criminal prosecution and sentencing of up to 7 years in prison becomes a very stark reality.
In the aftermath of the tragic indicent it’s also the image of the school, the teachers, the school principle, and the board members that suffer most, and with that, the long-term survival of the school.
Worried about cost
Understandably, with sizeable staff contingents and limited budgets, one of the concerns raised at the CarerCheck workshop was that of cost. Many school governing bodies cannot afford to have all their teachers screened in one sitting. And it’s not that individual background checks are expensive, but when multiplied by 20 or 30, it’s a move that requires careful budget considerations.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to start somewhere – even with only a handful of staff members every month. And given that SACE registrations and renewals now require a police clearance certificate for which the educator is financially responsible, requiring that all registrations are up to date can go a long way to alleviate expenses and boosting confidence in the safety of learners.
For more information about the CarerCheck workshop or to request a workshop for your school or educational institution, contact us on 0861 274 911, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.