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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Bushbuckridge residents speak of pain of disabled learners that are locked in their homes and not attending school

NALEDI SHOTA|

Parliament’s portfolio committee on social development has called for better care and treatment of children living with disabilities. 

This is after the committee learned while in Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga that some children with disabilities do not go to school and are instead locked in back rooms by their parents. 

These revelations were made to the committee while it was in the area for public hearings into the Children’s Amendment Bill. 

“The Bill is intended to resolve numerous challenges relating to the welfare of children and those include parental responsibilities of unmarried fathers, child marriages, services to children born to foreign parents, and unaccompanied migrant children,” according to the committee. 

One of the participants in the hearings, Mofenyi Tshilwane told the committee that parents of children with disabilities need support. 

“It is not because the parents like the conditions the children live in but they don’t have support, they need to be empowered,” he said. 

READ: Sexual assaults and violence at South Africa’s schools

Acting chairperson of the committee Nkhensani Bilankulu also said that the committee had learned that learners are victims of rape and the perpetrators are teachers who never face consequences because they are defended by teacher unions. 

“Teacher unions can never be justified in defending alleged rapists in schools, if there are cases of such need to be reported to the police. We also learn that some educators are protected by management due to the importance of learning areas they teach. The committee appealed to community members that they need to be vigilant when it comes to issues and safety of children at schools,” said Bilankulu.

Last month, the South African Human Rights Commission held public hearings in Limpopo looking at corporal punishment, sexual relations between teachers and learners and bullying. 

Those hearings also heard that teachers who have sexual relations with learners are protected by unions or principals fail to report the misconduct to the department of education. 

Bilankulu said schools need to be a safe space for learners and: “… In cases where rapes have occurred, the educators’ code of conduct needs to prevail with proper follow up of such incidents by all stakeholders, the South African Police Service, school management, School Governing Bodies and teacher unions”.

Early this year Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, gazetted regulations that state that if a teacher has been found guilty and dismissed for having sexual relations with a learner that teacher will be banned for life from the teaching profession. 

Bilankulu promised the residents of Bushbuckridge that the issues they had raised during the  hearings will be escalated to the relevant  government departments. 

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