SOUTH AFRICA: Catholic Institute of Education Urges Schools to Prioritize Child Safeguarding

By Wesley Omondi

SOUTH AFRICA, JUNE 11, 2024 (CISA)—In light of the Child Protection Week, the Catholic Institute of Education (CIE) in South Africa has emphasized the importance of safeguarding and protecting children in educational settings.

Since 2012, CIE has supported Catholic schools in adopting and implementing a National Child Safeguarding Policy to ensure the safety of children. This policy, revised in 2018, emphasizes training schools to protect children, provide support when incidents of harm occur, and ensure legal reporting.

“CIE continues to be deeply concerned about the high levels of violence in South Africa and the impact this has not only on learners but teachers and communities as well,” the organization stated.

The urgency of ensuring that every environment is safe for children is underscored by the data from the Children’s Institute’s Child Gauge, which reports that 42% of children in South Africa have experienced violence. This alarming statistic highlights the need for readily available support systems to address the mental health needs of school communities and ensure accessible psychosocial support.

Disciplinary issues in schools remain a significant challenge, with many teachers struggling and sometimes resorting to corporal punishment. The CIE condemns this practice, noting it further violates children. To combat this, the CIE’s Building Peaceful Schools programme provides schools with tools to understand their climate and address areas of concern. This program promotes restorative practices based on peacebuilding and conflict management, offering a constructive alternative to traditional punitive measures.

During Child Protection Week, CIE calls on Catholic schools to prioritize child safeguarding and ensure that adequate resources are allocated to meet the policy requirements.

“The Mental Health needs of school communities need to be addressed and psychosocial support be accessible,” CIE emphasized, reflecting the broader concern for the well-being of students and educators alike.

Sr Hermenegild Makoro, former Secretary-General of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), supported this call to action, stressing the importance of creating a safe and nurturing environment for children.

“Our schools must be sanctuaries of safety and peace, where every child feels valued and protected,” she said.

CIE’s initiatives highlight the broader issues of violence and mental health in South African schools, urging systemic changes and community support to create safer educational environments. The revised National Child Safeguarding Policy and the Building Peaceful Schools programme are crucial steps towards achieving these goals, ensuring that schools not only protect children from harm but also foster a culture of peace and respect.