Our children are being fed to sexual predators by the very system which is intended to nurture them.
Education departments are ignoring the law and not consulting the National Sexual Offenders Register when making new hires, three provincial education departments have admitted to us.
Such a lack of care partly explains why we are regularly confronted with cases of sexual abuse at school – often in circumstances where a proper background check could have prevented it occurring.
Take the case of a leading Durban high school that employed as a drama teacher a man who had been convicted of a sexual offence involving a pupil while teaching at a previous school – and then molested two more children in his new job.
This example is sadly not an outlier; it happens with sickening regularity.
This is partly because the go-to reference consulted by education departments is the SA Council of Educators’ roll of registered teachers, to where transgressions by teachers are reported.
The council, however, admits that its system is not without substantial flaws and that it finds it difficult to keep track of all cases of misconduct due to uncoordinated reporting channels.
Despite the law requiring that anyone working with children should be screened against various statutory registers, experts in the field say such screening is rare.
The solution to this doesn’t seem to be difficult. It simply requires employers to act with the duty of care that society – and the law – expects of them.
One step in the right direction would be to screen new hires against all possible sources of sexual offenders. It may not stop unknown sexual predators from getting jobs but it would keep previous offenders out of the system and at least some of our children would be safe.