New teachers will have to prove they aren't sex pests

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New teachers will have to prove they aren't sex pests

After spike in assaults on pupils, new ruling means teachers must produce police certificates before being registered

Prega Govender

New teachers registering with the South African Council for Educators (Sace) will have to produce a police clearance certificate from next year.
This registration requirement was sparked by, among other things, the high number of cases of sex pest teachers that has been reported to the Sace over the years.
A total of 99 incidents of sexual misconduct, including rape, involving teachers were reported to it between April 2016 and March 2017.
Sace spokesperson Themba Ndhlovu said it had been confronted with a host of questions about the people it registers. Almost 38,000 new teachers were registered by the organisation in the past financial year.
“The sexual abuse of learners is a matter that the council does not tolerate and it is hoped that this process will ensure we stop this practice.”
It is mandatory for teachers to register with Sace before they are allowed to teach.
Currently, applicants seeking registration only have to indicate whether they have a criminal record or not, but they are not obliged to provide a police clearance certificate.
If they admit having a criminal record, a committee from  Sace recommends whether they are fit to teach.“If they were not involved in a serious crime, the committee would recommend that a teacher be registered provisionally for 12 months and the principal is given the responsibility to monitor that individual. After this the school will provide a report and it will be decided whether the teacher will be given full registration or not.”
Ndhlovu said that they were are also “finalising engagements” with both the departments of Social Development and Justice and Constitutional Development on accessing the National Child Protection Register and National Register for Sex Offenders.
The registers contain lists of offenders deemed unsuitable to work with children because they have been found guilty of sexual offences against children and mentally disabled people.
He said plans to conduct “serious vetting” of teachers are also in the pipeline.“Applicants must give permission to do background vetting on them by, among other things, accessing the two registers. We need to build into our registration requirements a clause that will give Sace permission to access it.”
Said Ndhlovu: “The problem when you register somebody is you’re giving them a licence to teach. If an employer does not do any background checks, they will come back and say: ‘Sace registered this person’.”
He said the council still had to take a decision on whether teachers currently in the system would also be asked to provide police clearance certificates.
“Teacher unions have representatives on the council and they continuously engage with their structures on decisions taken by council. As the nation we all carry the responsibility of protecting the integrity and status of the teaching profession,” he said.
A recently released study commissioned by Sace recommended that it should consider including in the application form a clause stating that the applicant agrees not to commit any act of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct against pupils.The investigation, titled “Factors and environment facilitating sexual-related misdemeanours between teachers and learners”, also recommended that Sace must collaborate with law-enforcement agencies “to expedite” cases of sexual misconduct.
“Parents/guardians must be informed about how they consciously or naively are defeating the ends of justice by accepting money/incentives to cancel cases of sexual impropriety be teachers,” the report stated.
One of the research findings was that there was a “growing trend” in the number of sexually-related misdemeanours reported to Sace.
Questions about whether schools were screening and conducting background checks on teachers before employing them were raised in February after a northern KwaZulu-Natal teacher, who was fired from his school after allegedly sexually assaulting a boy on two occasions, found employment at a school in a neighbouring town.Times Select broke the story of the teacher from Dannhauser Primary Full Service School who was dismissed – and then offered a job at Amajuba High School in Nedwcastle.
The teacher was accused of sexually assaulting the boy in August 2016 when he was a 12-year-old pupil at Dannhauser Primary Full Service School. The second alleged assault took place in March last year when the boy visited the suspect at his house in Dannhauser.
Times Select on Monday learned that the teacher has since voluntarily resigned from his post at Amajuba High School after placing it “in such a predicament”.
Basil Manuel, executive director of the National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa, said they were not opposed to applicants being asked to provide police clearance certificates as a measure of preventing sex pest teachers from entering the profession.
“We understand the rationale behind wanting police clearance certificates, but we raised the issue of whether it would be effective because first-time applicants who register may not have a record.
“I would say that people who have resigned in a province after being charged and are trying to come back into the system at another place need to provide it.”
He said that first-time applicants may find difficulty, depending on where they lived, in securing a police clearance certificate because not all police stations issued them.
“We asked Sace to ensure that those who have not yet earned a salary are not being inconvenienced to such an extent that they can’t get a clearance and hence can’t find a post.”

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