Consent in the classroom: Why these 23 pupils finally reported their sex pest teacher
We're not talking about R Kelly cases that have been going on for years. No, no, it's a lot closer to home.
When we talk about sex education, we should also be mentioning consent. (iStock)
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*This article was updated on 25 November 2019

A quick scan of the news and you'll find article after article about recent child sexual assault cases.

And we're not talking about R Kelly cases that have been going on for years. No, no, it's a lot closer to home.

It's in and around the neighbourhood, at family functions, and in schools.

Just read:

"Former Parktown Boys' High assistant coach gets 23 years in jail"

"Bryanston High School coach guilty of sexual harassment, dismissed immediately"

"Teacher arrested for allegedly sexually abusing pupils at Valhalla Primary School"

and most recently: REVEALED | Here is the teacher-turned-journalist who allegedly sexually assaulted boys for years

In a shocking podcast series, it was revealed that Willem Breytenbach, a former teacher-turned-journalist who became an executive at Media24 before he left the company in 2014, sexually assaulted schoolboys over a number of years, at no less than three different schools. 

As awful as this story is, it's not unique. 

Earlier this year News24 reported that a teacher allegedly sexually assaulted 23 pupils at Valhalla Primary School in Pretoria.

The assaults happened in June last year, but were only reported recently.

Why, you ask?

Because on 23 January members of the Tshwane Metro Police Department visited the school to teach learners about sexual abuse.

The learners then confided in the officers that they had been inappropriately touched by one of their teachers.

How this happens is cause for concern.

In an era of movements such as #MeToo and Times Up and #AmINext, when we’re more sexually diverse, ultra-socially conscious and hypersensitive than ever before, why are predators still getting away with their crimes? 

Consent is something that must be taught at every level of a child’s education, so that they grow up knowing they have the right to their own bodily autonomy and anyone who comes along should respect that.

Predators will thrive

In 2018 Parktown Boys was also in the news after a sexual abuse scandal involving the school’s water polo coach was brought to light. 

In a brilliant piece exposing the 'Parktown Boys way', Robyn Wolfson Vorster explains that it's not only about the sex pest teachers, but the schools in which they operate.

She warns that schools need to be more aware of the cultures they're creating and make sure they rid themselves of all that is toxic.

"If Parktown Boys and the other boy’s schools like it don’t make the changes required," she warns, "more predators like Rex will thrive, and the boys produced by the system will not become proud old boys, but rather, broken men."

Also read: OPINION: We aren’t doing enough to protect our boys from sexual assault

What is consent? 

Consent, by definition, has to do with you giving “permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.”

consent

/k?n's?nt/

noun: permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.

"no change may be made without the consent of all the partners"

Similar: agreement assent concurrence accord permission authorization sanction leave clearance acquiescence acceptance approval

Children need to know that they have the right to say yes or no to something, and their decision is final and should be respected.

Further to that, they need to understand that:

  • Consent is a freely given agreement to (sexual) activity;
  • Consent to one (sexual) activity does not constitute consent to another;

  • A person cannot consent if they can’t understand the nature of the activity - due to drugs, alcohol, or power dynamics for example.

Also read: Understanding rape culture and teaching your children about it

Is consent part of the South African curriculum? 

In SA, sex education is written into the CAPS curriculum for Life Orientation which, according to The Department of Basic Education, includes 6 topics to be covered from Grades 10 to 12:

(1) Development of the self in society,

(2) Social and environmental responsibility,

(3) Democracy and human rights,

(4) Careers and career choices,

(5) Study skills and

(6) Physical education.  

Under the first section, development of the self in society, “sexual behaviour” needs to be discussed, as well as power relations, sexual abuse, teen pregnancy, rape and STIs. The curriculum includes teaching: 

“Values such as respect for self and others, abstinence, self-control, right to privacy, right to protect oneself, right to say ‘No’ and taking responsibility for own actions...” 

Time for an update

The Department of Basic Education has recently produced updated scripted lesson plans for teachers to use when teaching the Comprehensive Sexuality Education curriculum under the Life orientation subject. 

The plans are poised to be implemented from 2020, and consent is a key part of the curriculum, yet many parents are voicing their objections. They say parents should be responsible for teaching children about sex, consent and related topics.

However, with South Africa's high number of single mom headed households and a crisis of absent fathers, it seems that placing this burden solely on parents is not only going to prove ineffective, but is also irresponsible. 

Schools must take responsibility

If the Valhalla Primary School incident taught us anything it's that, firstly, these things are in fact happening, and in schools no less; and secondly, that learners are unaware of what constitutes sexual assault and abuse to begin with, so they may not even be aware that it was something they could and should report.

It is for this reason that we need to teach kids about consent, and schools need to be involved.

Support for students

Students must also feel able to come forward and expose predatory teachers, without shame or doubt being cast on their testimonies, and school leaders and law enforcement must take strong and immediate action to stop abusers and protect future generations.

Also see: Are the new Comprehensive Sexuality Education lesson plans really too much?

Chat back:

Teachers, parents: where show children be taught about consent? How do you go about introducing the concept to kids?

Let us know:

WhatsApp: Send messages and voicenotes to 066 010 0325

Email: chatback @ parent24.com

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