The Deputy Minister said this when he participated in a debate in the National Council of Provinces titled ‘Addressing the spate of rapes of learners in our schools’ on Tuesday.
“When you talk about rape, it is not only about the physical aspect of rape or violence against children, it is also about the emotional aspect, the psycho-social aspect, and therefore one has to reflect on the trauma that the child suffers as a result of this particular conflict,” he said.
The department has ensured that in the revised curriculum assessment policy, attention is paid to gender, including the prevention and management of gender-based violence.
“We have developed and trained teachers on the guidelines of the prevention and management of sexual violence and harassment in public schools.
“We also collaborate with partners who have dedicated their time and energy to ensure that they enhance protection for our learners,” he said.
The Deputy Minister said through partnerships with NGOs like Tshwaranang and the Foundation for Human Rights, among others, assistance is provided in bringing about awareness and advocacy in preventing violence in the schools.
The department has also developed a Values and Action Programme which speaks to the importance of respect, the importance of gender equality and about the responsibility the department has in protecting the rights of girl learners.
“We have developed a manual called Opening Our Eyes – it is a manual for educators in addressing gender-based violence in South African schools and educators across the country have been trained with regards to the use of this manual, with regards to the content and with regards to the methodology in the implementation of the content that is contained in the manual.
“There is also a manual that has been developed, titled ‘The Prevention of Violence in Schools’, which focuses on enabling learners to take action to prevent violence in their own schools and communities.
“This manual has been distributed to all provinces and has disseminated to all schools via the heads of the departments,” he said.
Deputy Minister Surty said the department has distributed a resource to all schools called “Challenging Homophobic Bullying in our Schools”.
“Very often you find an expression of violence against our girl learners through the act of bullying and indeed that is another element where we dedicate time and effort for it, including the training of our educators in dealing with this particular issue,” he said.
More than 15 000 schools in South Africa have been adopted by the South African Police Service to ensure learners and educators have easy access to the police in their areas.
Schools have introduced movements called GEM (Girls Education Movement) or BEM (Boys Education Movement), where the boys are taught to be their sisters’ keepers and are vested with the responsibility and obligation of ensuring that they protect girl learners.
“We are in the process of finalising a protocol on the prevention and management of sexual violence in our schools and this will provide for all the provinces a step-to-step guide for educators, for principals, for parents and the learners in terms of how do you deal with acts of sexual violence and sexual abuse in our schools because the lack of knowledge of how to respond to it often results in a cover-up. So a great deal of work has been done, but much more needs to be done.
“We certainly have a particular responsibility in protecting our learners.”