"The mere fact that you can have 83 learners going through this pain in one school [in] under a year is shocking. It is a national disaster."
These were the words of Gauteng MEC of education, Panyanza Lesufi, after scores of learners were allegedly sexually assaulted by a security guard at a primary school in Soweto.
It is not one, or twenty or thirty, for Gods sake it is 83 learners"Panyaza Lesufi
Lesufi, who was speaking to Stephen Grootes on 702 on Friday said: "All of us, the entire education system must hang our heads in shame and say we have failed society... We must take full responsibility".
After EWN initially reported on Thursday that 54 pupils were allegedly molested by the school security guard, more cases have come to light. The 57-year-old suspect reportedly targeted girls from Grade R to Grade 7.
Sadly, the number of learners who were allegedly sexually assaulted by the patroller guard at a primary school in Soweto has increased to 83— Panyaza Lesufi (@Lesufi) October 12, 2017
"The department is disgusted, weakened, by the information. Immediately after the report came out, we unleashed our social services to conduct further investigations," Lesufi said.
Lesufi, who sounded concerned about the escalating assaults on schoolchildren, said: "We [the education department] have failed society."
Lesufi refused to put the blame on the school management.
"We have failed society"
"I am taking full responsibility, this thing happened under my watch. We just can't just choose who or what to blame.
"It starts with me, those teachers represent my department. It starts with us, whether you are an MEC, head of department or manager of a district. It must not be confined to people that are only at the school. the entire education system has failed these children".
"The aim of a security guard is to protect children, not prey on them"Themba Ndlovu, SACE
As spokesperson for the South African Council for Educators (SACE), Themba Ndlovu, told HuffPost that they would proceed with an investigation.
"The aim of a security guard is to protect children, not prey on them. Even though we do not have jurisdiction over security guards, we will follow up this matter." The SACE will issue a statement later today.
Lesufi also confirmed that the department had taken a decision to remove the entire management of the school, as well as the principal.
In an interview with eNCA, several parents of the school relayed how teachers had told their children to keep quiet about the assaults.
Lesufi concluded by saying: "We met with all community structures because we have to broaden this thing as quickly as possible and create that environment where parents can feel free to raise these issues, but also to ensure that we give immediate support to these children because they have gone through pain."