A prominent Durban high school unwittingly employed a convicted sex offender, and failed to act after his first victim notified the school’s management team. And although South African legislation provides measures to safeguard our children, more can be done to prevent convicted sex offenders from slipping through the cracks.
According to The Witness in which the article first appeared, the respected drama teacher had been convicted in 2003 for the sexual assault of a pupil in the nineties. Yet he managed to evade all necessary regulatory checks which would have seen him struck from the South African Council for Educators (SACE), and was subsequently reemployed.
Under the Employment of Educators Act, the South African Council for Educators Act and the SACE Code of Professional Ethics, regulations stipulate that educators who are found guilty of serious misconduct, or “found guilty of a breach of the code of professional ethics” may be removed from the register. “Misconduct” includes improper physical contact, sexual harassment, and any form of sexual relationship with a learner. The SACE disciplinary committee is charged with establishing panels to investigate any such alleged breaches.
While it remains unclear how said teacher managed to escape detection by the SACE disciplinary committee, the question arises whether more could be done to protect learners. After all, this isn’t the first or last case of its kind, nor was it afforded Oscar status in the media.
Placing the onus (and the accompanying blame for any failures) on the SACE is one option. Then again, learners are also protected by our constitution (Section 28 states that children have a right “to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation”). Official accountability therefore becomes problematic.
Taking into account that financial organisations, law enforcement organisations, and, nowadays, the average small business rely on background checks to maintain the integrity of their workforce, it must be asked why schools aren’t required to run periodic background checks on teachers to ensure that they remain suitable to work with children. Had this been the case, the school’s previous headmaster (present at the time the teacher was employed) could have taken the necessary steps to create a safer environment for learners, and prevent bad publicity.
In terms of strategy, this could be another protective layer to help the SACE weed out unsuitable teachers, thereby providing more protection for learners.
At the time of this writing the identity of the teacher remains unknown, as does that of the Durban-based school where he was employed. Suffice it to say that, in addition to the 2003 conviction, said educator also faces charges of child pornography.
CSI Africa is driven to promote honesty and increased efficiency in the workplace by assisting companies and individuals with our in-house expertise and access to various intelligence systems. Since 2002 we’ve assisted educational institutions and businesses with fast and accurate background screening services. In 2014 we launched CarerCheck to help partial care educational institutions comply with the Children’s Act, 38 of 2005.