Inertia over 'Dossier of Shame'

Two years ago Natalie* (14) called a crisis line to say her teacher had been sexually and emotionally abusing her since she was 12.

The crisis line, Childline in KwaZulu-Natal, reported the incident to the province’s department of education and culture, and followed up with a monthly reminder. Two years later, the department has taken no action.

Linda Dhabicharan, director of Childline KwaZulu-Natal, said that Childline reported the matter to both the principal of Natalie’s school and the department the day after Natalie called them - but that like many other incidents, it has not been investigated.

Many children appear to have been forgotten in the departmental inertia on the abuses detailed in the Dossier of Shame despite ministerial intervention and parliamentary involvement.

Earlier this year children’s rights organisations - including Childline in KwaZulu-Natal - were accusing education officials of failing to act on incidents of sexual abuse at schools. And, while schools reported cases that occurred outside of school, they actively covered up when abuse happened on the school premises.

The dossier was compiled last November by five children’s rights NGOs: The Teddy Bear Clinic for Abused Children, Childline in KwaZulu-Natal, Women Against Child Abuse, the United Sanctuary Against Abuse and Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.

The national Department of Education says it became aware of the dossier only at the end of January. Minister of Education Kader Asmal said that he has since written to KwaZulu-Natal minister for education and culture Narend Singh, instructing him to investigate the matter.

But when asked what had been done since he received Asmal’s letter, Singh appeared uncertain about whether he had received it at all.

It is the children who are forgotten while political leaders argue over whether they have taken any action, said Salim Vally, a senior researcher at the Wits Education Policy Unit and a member of the Education Rights Project. ‘This kind of hiding behind bureaucratic red tape is no excuse. What gets sacrificed are the interests of people who are vulnerable and look to the state to protect them.”

* Name changed

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