A Durban based detective agency told The Mercury recently that about one in eight schools has on its staff a registered sex offender or someone caught harming a child.
Alarming figures when one takes into consideration the recent revelations around two Port Elizabth schools – Grey High and Linkside – whose teachers have recently been outed for sexual harassment and offences against pupils.
The Durban based detective agency specialises in children’s issues and was hired by schools around the country to do “clearance checks” on teachers, administrative and support staff.
“This year, we were called in by 148 mainly private schools around South Africa. We’ve had 18 positives and discovered some who are still awaiting trial and so are not on either of the registers yet,” said Marc Hardwick, formerly a child protection unit detective and now the owner of The Guardian agency.
The issue of compulsory vetting of anyone who deals with children came into the spotlight recently with the arrest of a Durban high school drama teacher on charges of creating child pornography.
The teacher – who cannot be named until he pleads to the charges – allegedly groomed some of his pupils and paid them large sums to pose naked and participate in filmed sexual performances at his Glenwood home.
It emerged soon after his arrest – and it was confirmed during his bail application – that he had a previous conviction of sexual assault dating back to 2002 relating to a 15-year-old pupil at another school where he had worked.
Hardwick said there were two registers of “offenders” and a teacher or anyone else who worked with children had to be cleared on both.
One, the child protection register, is governed by the Children’s Act. It stipulates that if a person is found guilty in any hearing – criminal or not – of hurting a child, be it physical, sexual or through negligence – their names will be put on the list administered by the Department of Social Development.
“For example, if you work at a nursery school and are disciplined because you neglected a child, or hit a child, then your name will be on the list and you can never again work in an environment where you come into contact with children,” Hardwick said.
The second is the sexual offenders’ register and lists all people convicted of committing a sexual offence with a minor or a mentally disabled person.
This list is administered by the Department of Justice.
He said the onus was on the employer to make sure staff were “cleared”.
The penalty for employing a listed person could be imprisonment of between seven and 10 years.
But job seekers should be proactive and get themselves cleared, said Hardwick.
“It’s a bit like a driver’s licence. Your boss won’t pay for you to get one, but he won’t give you a job without one. And he must satisfy himself that you have one and it is valid.”
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