Once-off disciplinary hearings will ‘mitigate trauma suffered by sexual abuse victims’

KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala at an event where vehicles to assist in the mass testing and screening of Covid-19 in KZN | Image: Twitter /@kzngov

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala says various programmes have been initiated by the provincial department of education aimed at delaying learners from being sexually active.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala has announced that in the interest of learners who are victims of sexual abuse, a resolution has been implemented that the provincial department of education “should have a once-off sitting” of a disciplinary hearing “to … mitigate trauma suffered by the victim”.

Zikalala was on Friday addressing the sitting of the KwaZulu-Natal Women’s Parliament.

He said during last year’s sitting, challenges faced by learners who are victims of sexual abuse had been raised and it was resolved that a once-off sitting of disciplinary hearings in such matters should be held.

“Indeed, a single sitting is now the new practice. In addition, the offender is placed on suspension and is prohibited to contact the victim or witnesses,” the premier said.

Meanwhile, Zikalala told the sitting that the department of education, along with its social partners, has initiated various programmes “aimed at delaying young people” from “being sexually active”.

He said these programmes include:

• The appointment of 600 learner support agents to schools with high levels of learner pregnancy. As a result, learner pregnancy has dropped in 456 schools.

• The ‘Baby Not Now’ prevention of learner pregnancy programme has reduced learner pregnancy by 73% of the schools targeted.

• Programmes like “She Conquers”, “Soul Buddyz” and “Peer Educators Programmes” are being implemented in all districts and they focus on encouraging learners to make sound decisions and delay intercourse.

“It was also resolved that all schools should have youth ambassadors to deal with issues affecting fellow learners.

“For the financial year 2019/20, the KZN Department of Education is employing 604 out of school youth with a minimum of grade 12 qualification as learner support agents (LSAs) which are school-based and work under the direct supervision of the Life Orientation educator and the school principal,” Zikalala said.

Last year’s sitting had resolved that Thuthuzela Care Centres, facilities aimed at reducing secondary victimisation for rape victims and building cases for successful prosecution, should operate for 24 hours, Zikalala said.

He added that it was also resolved that the department of social development should improve its communication on the centres, and that staff working in these centres must improve their attitudes and embody the Batho-Pele principles of service delivery.

“The department of social development is ensuring that Thuthuzela Care Centres operate 24 hours. The department supports Lifeline with funding for the provision of psycho-social support services to victims.

“In addition, the department has increased psychosocial support services by appointing 153 social workers through Lifeline and 30 departmental social workers to deal with gender-based violence.

“In strengthening the escalation of information about the services rendered by the Thuthuzela Care Centres, they are allocated under the management of the National Prosecuting Authority with a strategy in place.

“In addition, services that are rendered by the Thuthuzela Care Centres are marketed by the department of social development at various prevention and awareness campaign held with communities in all districts.

“The department has funded Lifeline to deliver services on its behalf. One of the agreed-upon deliverables is to facilitate capacity building for all their employees regarding customer care and customer service.

“In addition, community members are encouraged to use suggestion boxes to lodge complaints.”

(Compiled by Makhosandile Zulu)

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