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Media Release

31 January, 2002

Three fronts in the fight against sexual abuse

Statement by the Western Cape Education Minister, André Gaum.

Recent findings by the National Council of Provinces and the Medical Research Council have focussed public attention on the sexual abuse of our young people and especially on the shocking national statistic that in one third of the rapes of schoolgirls, the perpetrators are teachers.

The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) is committed to the fight against this evil and every other kind of abuse of young people. This commitment has three very practical facets:

* Abuse No More: Policy, Guidelines and Training

During 2001 the WCED introduced a comprehensive policy and guidelines on dealing effectively with child abuse of every kind, including sexual abuse. The department has distributed the policy and guidelines in a document called Abuse No More to all schools in the province and to the departments Education Management and Development Centres (EMDCs) in our seven education districts. The WCED is rolling out a training programme for teachers on the policy, supported by a video. The full document and a summary are available on WCED Online at http://wced.wcape.gov.za.

* The Directorate of Special Education Needs

This Directorate's many responsibilities include providing for Youth at Risk and managing the teams of psychologically trained specialists at EMDCs who are immediately involved in remedial intervention as soon as a case of abuse is suspected or established. (Abuse No More was largely the fruit of the expertise and hard work of this Directorate.) Schools and the WCED's Safe Schools' Call Centre typically refer cases of abuse to social workers and psychologists based at our EMDCs.

* The Safe Schools Call Centre

During 2000, the WCED's Safe Schools Programme launched this Call Centre, which has since then offered learners and teachers a toll-free line on 0800 45 46 47 from Mondays to Fridays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. (during school holidays as well). Overnight and weekend calls are recorded and responded to on the following working morning. Call Centre operators can handle calls in Afrikaans, English or Xhosa.

The Call Centre provides emergency counselling for callers needing immediate help, but its main function is to ensure that the caller is put in touch with the agency or agencies best qualified to offer the relevant kind of trauma counselling and deal with such problems as rape, assault and teenage runaways. To this end it works in close collaboration with a network of service providers such as the Directorate of Special Education Needs, the school clinics, the EMDCs, other government departments, the police, NGOs, community organisations and private practitioners.

Schools have been asked to urge teachers and learners to report the following to the Call Centre: deaths (whether caused by gangs or by traffic), shootings, rape, assaults, arson, burglaries, robberies, sexual harassment, corporal punishment, fraudulent progress reports, teacher abuse, and any other form of abuse.

Schools have also been asked to urge learners to make use of the Call Centre as a provider of information on abortion, alcoholism, drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, racism, teenage pregnancies and general educational queries about, for example, suspension, expulsion, school fees, compulsory school attendance, etc.

As well as helping schools and individuals to deal with the kinds of problem listed above, the Call Centre has the further purpose of enabling the Safe Schools programme to gather accurate statistical information on the problems affecting our schools and their inhabitants. The data thus collected will help us to follow an objective, fact-based approach in working out ways to help make our schools safe and crime-free.

* The attached tables provide details on the calls received by the Call Centre in 2001. Abuse of various forms, including sexual abuse, accounted for 26% of the total number of calls received. A total of 109 calls involved sexual abuse. Of these, about 75% involved the callers' families, about 10% involved teachers, and about 15% involved other learners. The 109 calls included 51 cases of rape, 47 cases of sexual abuse, five of sexual harrassment and six of sodomy.

Issued by:
The Communications Directorate
Western Cape Education Department
Private Bag X9114
Cape Town 8000
Tel: (021) 467-2531
Fax: (021) 467-2363
Email: pattwell@pgwc.gov.za
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