Guard your child’s safety

Octayvia Nance

A PORT Elizabeth educationist has come out in support of a child safety programme after a visit to the Eastern Cape by a Durban-based former policeman who started the initiative.

Remedial therapist and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University education lecturer, Dr Danielle Ah Hing, believes so strongly in the Guardian programme launched by Marc Hardwick that she feels no school in South Africa can afford to be without it. Hardwick visited Port Elizabeth earlier this month to launch his programme here at the urging of Ah Hing, having met him through the mother of a student whom he was assisting.

Hardwick started The Guardian in 2009 for purely investigation purposes but has since grown it to involve counselling parents, schools and children alike.

“The programme is the perfect opportunity for schools to further embrace the safety of the learners in their care, to identify the signs of child sexual abuse [CSA], to know what the law stipulates in terms of not reporting knowledge or suspicion of CSA and to enhance in-service training for teachers,” Ah Hing said.

“It is vital to support teachers and to provide them with the necessary skills to be able to cope with the realities of what some of their learners are being exposed to,” Ah Hing said. She said most schools had very little information regarding the legal requirements for the safety of children when it came to sexual abuse.

“There are some who are of the opinion that such problems, including ‘sex-ting’, is more of a problem at co-ed schools or they tend to rely on the pupils to abide by the code of conduct set by the school.

“No school is above having such social problems in their midst. The question is whether they are willing to admit that and be pro-active in terms of implementing protective behaviour programmes for their pupils as well as training and support for their teachers and parents,” she said. “Considering that we have the highest rape rate in the world and that the crimes against children are escalating daily at an alarming rate, principals and educators can no longer play the ostrich game and ignore the problem. It is present at all schools. The question is whether or not the powers-that-be are prepared to acknowledge that some children are in danger and whether they are prepared to take action,” she added.

Hardwick said every child had the right to protection – and every single person had an obligation to assist children to enjoy that right. He wants to change the crime stats in this part of the world for the better and to do this, he will need the help of schools and business.

The Guardian specialises in the protection of children and teenagers against all forms of abuse as well as the investigation of cases of crimes against children and teenagers. “These crimes range from sexual assault, paedophiles and child trafficking, right through to offences in social networking arenas such as ‘sexting’ and cyber-bulling,” Hardwick said.

Hardwick offers schools The Guardian Partnership Programme that includes age appropriate training, educator training, parent training, electronic newsletters, a policy and procedure manual and case management.

Behaviour cues kids are violated

REMEDIAL therapist Dr Danielle Ah Hing provides signs to teachers and parents that may indicate some form of abuse is taking place.

  • Signs of anxiety or stress;
  • Anger with no reasoning;
  • Mood swings;
  • Depression;
  • Concentration difficulties;
  • Decline in schoolwork;
  • Loss of interest in normally “fun” activities; and
  • Sleep disturbances.

Teachers should watch out for the following tell-tale signs:

  • Sudden change in behaviour;
  • Mood swings;
  • Withdrawal from friends and so forth;
  • Decline in academic performance;
  •  Loss of interest in school; and
  • Anti-social behaviour: substance abuse, promiscuity and so forth (prevalent among adolescents but can occur in younger children).

Ways for parents to protect against abuse

DR DANIELLE Ah Hing provides tips for parents to take immediate actions to combat child abuse.

  • Report it to the police station or Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit’s (FCS) 24-hour number (041)406-4112;
  • Tell children about “good touch/ bad touch”;.
  • Teach your child about “good secrets/bad secrets”;
  • Boys and girls are equally vulnerable to sexual abuse;
  • Believe what your child tells you;
  • Encourage children to write down, draw or act out what they are feeling should there be suspicion of abuse taking place;
  • Continue to teach children about “stranger danger”;
  • Don’t make sex education the responsibility of the school. Children are being exposed to sex and sexuality at a much younger age nowadays. Find out from the school at what age the children are taught sex education. Speak to your child BEFORE that lesson to prepare them;
  • Teach the difference between being bad-mannered and firm in saying NO when they are being touched or spoken to inappropriately;
  • Teach your sons to respect girls and vice versa; and
  • Don’t leave adult literature in places easily accessible to children.

Tips for teachers of little victims

REMEDIAL therapist Dr Danielle Ah Hing provides tips for teachers if they suspect child sex abuse is taking place, or may have taken place.

  • Share your suspicions and concerns with your principal immediately.
  • Report it to the nearest police station or at the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit’s (FCS) 24-hour number (041)406-4112.
  • Never put the child under pressure to disclose information.
  • Don’t always assume that inappropriate information for the age of the child stems directly from the parents or home. The abuse may not be taking place at home and the parents may well be unaware of it.
  • Teach children about “stranger danger”. Remind them that no-one (even family members or friends) are allowed to touch them or talk to them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Encourage children to speak out if someone is doing something to them that they don’t like.
  • If a child has disclosed any form of abuse, reassure the child that the abuse was NOT their fault in any way.
  • Make it very clear to the child that the person who abused them is doing something very wrong.
  • Explain to the child that he or she is not the only child to whom this is happening. Explain that other children all over the world have also been touched by adults inappropriately.
  • Praise the child for being brave and having the courage to speak out against the perpetrator.
  • Never make promises to the child that you are unable to keep.
  • At least a week before teaching the first sex education lesson, send an official school letter to the parents to explain that you will be doing the lesson on a specific date. Explain what the departmental requirements are. This gives parents the opportunity to speak to their child.
  • NEVER joke about sex or sexual abuse.

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