'Department not doing enough to support violated pupils'

Man has been arrested for sexually harassing about 54 primary schooll pipuls at AB Xuma primry school at Orlando,Soweto. / Veli Nhlapo
Man has been arrested for sexually harassing about 54 primary schooll pipuls at AB Xuma primry school at Orlando,Soweto. / Veli Nhlapo

Some of the parents of pupils at AB Xuma Primary School in Soweto have accused the Gauteng department of education of failing to provide adequate support for their children after reports of sexual assault surfaced at the school.

The parents, who spoke to Sowetan yesterday, said very little has been done in assisting them and their children since a 57-year-old school patroller was arrested in connection with the sexual assault of 87 girls at the school.

The patroller made a brief appearance in the Protea Magistrate's Court yesterday where he faced three charges of rape and five of sexual assault.

His case was postponed to October 25 for further investigations and for an identity parade to be conducted. State prosecutor Cheryl Slack said the state was in possession of 15 statements by pupils.

"Of that 15, we have opened three counts of rape and five counts of sexual assault. We are aware that there is a number of 87 that is being quoted in the media, but that is not what we have at the moment," Slack told the court.

Speaking outside the court, one of the parents said they were disappointed by the department. "This person has done disgusting things to our children. He abused them emotionally and physically.

"There is nobody coming to us and assisting us from the department, we seem to be standing alone in the fight against this animal who abused our children," said visibly distraught the parent.

MEC for education Panyaza Lesufi said it was unfortunate that there were parents who feel that the department has not been providing support to their children despite visits to the school by social workers.

"It is unfortunate because I have asked them (parents) to form a committee so that I can interact with them directly. It would be difficult to interview the entire school population," Lesufi said

"The Teddy Bear Clinic has prioritised this matter in court, without the information they acquired, there would be a miscarriage of justice."

Lesufi said there were processes the department has prioritised in ensuring that pupils and parents are assisted.

He said more cases have been brought to their attention and that a task team might need to be created in a bid to reduce and prevent further incidents from occurring.

The spokeswoman for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Phindi Louw, urged parents and the public to be patient, considering the mammoth task they faced.

Louw explained that the NPA was expecting lengthy processes given the number of pupils who have come forward. She said the prosecutor handling the matter has instructed police to work towards adding more charges.

Meanwhile, Bongani Nkosi reports that the rape case against the scholar patroller who allegedly raped a Mahube Valley, Tshwane, matric pupil during a matric dance event was postponed yesterday.

The 28-year-old's bail application could not proceed in the Bronkhorstspruit Magistrate's Court due to the unavailability of Legal Aid lawyers.