As Child Protection Week begins it has been revealed that the SA Council of Educators (Sace), which has the task of vetting teachers, has not had access to the sexual offenders’ list for a decade.
With a spate of reported incidents of teachers sexually abusing schoolkids, this means that many more sexual predators are lurking in the system undetected.
This was revealed in a parliamentary response to Sace posed by the DA’s Sonja Boshoff earlier this month.
In its response Sace writes that in 2017 it had approached the director-general (DG) of the basic education department, asking him to obtain the National Child Protection Register from the DG of the justice department.
“This move was taken because of the limitations of access to the register, which permits only employers, concerned individuals and designated child-protection organisations to access it.
“Similarly, the basic education department DG would have facilitated the process of accessing the National Register of Sexual Offences on behalf of Sace as well,” the response reads.
“Subsequent to the request, a joint meeting between the department of basic education, social development and Sace was held to discuss access to the Child Protection Register.
“The department of justice and constitutional development were not available to attend because of competing priorities.”
Spokesperson for Sace Themba Ndlovu confirmed that it was yet to get the registers and was waiting for further engagements with the justice department through the basic education department.
Ndlovu said that in the meantime it was beefing up the Child Protection Register, which was constantly being managed and updated by Sace.
The organisation was ensuring that the teachers who it had struck off the roll for “misdemeanors” were recorded on the list.
Plans were in place to make a police clearance certificate a necessary requirement for teachers from both inside and outside the country, who needed to be registered with Sace.
But basic education department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said there was nothing preventing Sace from directly approaching the justice department.
“Sace was established by an act of Parliament in 2000, which means it does not have to work through the basic education department or any other department to obtain information from another structure of government. It can do that itself,” Mhlanga said.
“The DG has been in communication with the DG of the justice department to try to resolve this matter by ensuring the department and its entities, such as Sace in this case, have full access to this register and it is able to use it for the right purpose,” Mhlanga said.
An insider at the basic education department said the issue about handing out the register was that it was incomplete and had been neglected for some time, making it useless from which to work.
Boshoff said she was concerned that Sace had failed to obtain the list, given the current epidemic of sexual predators in the school system.
“The Child Protection Register and the Register for Sex Offenders are crucial to protect our pupils from predatory school staff. Sace is supposed to vet teachers thoroughly before allowing them to teach in South Africa. It should keep track of all disciplinary infringements and convictions against them,” Boshoff said.
“We are experiencing an epidemic of sexual and physical abuse of learners by educators and other school staff, so something is not working in this system. It is shocking that Sace, which was established 18 years ago, requested access to these registers only recently.”