'There's a devil in our schools' – Makhura
Gauteng Premier David Makhura vehemently condemned the sexual harassment and assault of learners that takes place in schools.
The premier was speaking at the provincial unveiling of the new Nokuthula LSEN school for children with special educational needs in Lyndhurst‚ Johannesburg‚ on Tuesday. The premier joined forces with MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi and MEC for Infrastructure Development Jacob Mamabolo to open the school – the first of its kind to be built since 1994.
“There’s a scourge in our schools. There is a devil in our schools. The scourge of sexual harassment‚ rape‚ molestation of our girl children. Parents send their children to school because schools should be a place for the development of our children. Schools should not only be safe‚ but sacred places.
“I want to send a strong message to those involved‚ that we are coming for you. We don’t want those things here. When you go for our children‚ you are touching us where it hurts most. When you touch our children‚ you are touching us in our studio. Don’t touch us in our studio‚” said the premier.
He added that school principals should take responsibility for looking after children in schools. “Principals: there will be no excuses‚” he warned.
Makhura also referred to the suicide of a student at the University of the Witwatersrand during the week‚ urging matriculants not to give in to pressure or contemplate ending their lives.
“We don’t want them to commit suicide. We want them to achieve. We love them too much. Parents‚ please take care of the children. Support them – if they fall‚ they will stand up. Like that Wits student; we don’t want that. The one who took her life. Don’t take your life. Don’t commit suicide if you fail. You must fall and rise‚” Makhura said.
The school is meant to bridge an educational gap that learners with special needs experience in schools that don’t cater for their abilities.
“We are transforming a very important sector. Our children are not second-class citizens‚ but first-class citizens. Whoever thought that this sector does not deserve a swimming pool‚ you are wrong. We are doing all this because these children deserve our love‚ our care‚” said Lesufi.
Concluding his keynote address‚ Makhura led a chant of: “It is cool to learn. It is cool to study‚” and learners sang along.
“Education is indeed the best investment any nation can make in its future. We are promoting inclusionary education in our province. We love you dear children‚” Makhura said in closing.
Victoria Smith‚ grandmother of learner Zodwa Radebe who will attend the school‚ said that she was very happy with it.
“My child’s life will be better. I am happy‚ I am very happy – the school is beautiful. My child knows that she’s not stupid or slow‚ but gifted differently. We always teach her to be responsible‚ well mannered – and also to be able to detect any kind of abuse‚” said Smith.
The school will cater for 560 learners. It has sports fields‚ a therapy centre and a garden‚ among other facilities.