In early 2017 Corruption Watch was alerted by a whistle-blower to a situation at Siphesihle Secondary School in Verulam, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) involving a 16-year old pupil and the principal of her school.

The principal is alleged to have taken the learner to his house where he took advantage of the young woman by sexually abusing her, having placed her in an extremely vulnerable position and abusing his power in the most abhorrent way. The pupil herself heads up a household as the eldest of four siblings, and must depend on neighbours and the community for support.

In Easter of this year, she laid a charge against the principal at the police station and sought support from the social support worker at her school, as part of a collaborative programme between the provincial departments of education and social development.  She had anticipated that by the time she returned to school after the break, she would not have to face her alleged abuser. This did not happen.

The Corruption Watch investigative team identified glaring inadequacies in the social support programme intended to assist minors, and a lack of action on the part of the education department and the South African Police Service (SAPS). In addition, the case had been handed over to a male educator in the school, which the team considered highly inappropriate under the circumstances.

Under pressure from CW, the Department of Social Development assigned a social worker to the case, and the learner and her family were eventually removed from their community and put in a place of safety while the investigation was under way. The principal was finally suspended in August, months after the criminal case had been opened, and his first court appearance took place on 18 October.

Corruption Watch calls for steps to be taken to address the unresponsiveness of the Department of Education and SAPS on the matter, and the failure of the Department of Social Development to act swiftly in investigating the case. The impact of the delays in the investigation and the time taken as the case unfolds means that the learner remains in a vulnerable situation away from her support networks and siblings.

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Phemelo Khaas:               083 763 3472