Two previous incidents of child abduction in the Cape have already left parents and teachers on high alert, but the most recent incident now has them terrified. Western Cape Minister for Education, Debbie Schäfer, confirmed that a Grade 9 learner had been abducted and sexually assaulted while making her way to school on the morning of August 23.
The incident occurred in the Cape’s Southern Suburbs and was reported to Steenberg’s South African Police Services (SAPS). The victim is currently receiving counseling from a social worker and psychologist. The name of the school has not been released to protect the child’s identity.
The victim reported that an unfamiliar white BMW with tinted windows pulled up beside her on as she was walking to school. The men inside forcefully pulled her inside and drove around with her for hours.
Thus far, two incidents of child abduction have been reported in the Zonnebloem area, along with one unsuccessful abduction attempt in Rylands. This is the third abduction in less than a month.
“The safety of our learners outside the school gates remains beyond our control, but schools need to ensure that there are safety measures in place at dismissal time,” said Schäfer. “Learners who are picked up at their school by parents or caregivers should remain within the school property until they have visibly identified their mode of transport. Learners who require public transport and are expected to walk to their relevant departure areas should travel in groups at all times. However, where feasible, parents must please arrange that this is as close to the school as possible.”
Schäfer also added that schools should ensure that learners are aware of “stranger danger”.
“While we do not want to frighten them, they must know that they should be wary and immediately seek help if a stranger approaches them. Learners must be taught not to accept any free food, drinks, money or objects from strangers and should report any suspicious characters to an educator or administrator at the school as soon as possible,” she said.
Although Schäfer understands that SAPS is extremely under-resourced, she urged them to increase patrols before and after school. ”I also urge parents and community members to be EXTRA vigilant and to report any suspicious vehicles or persons immediately to the SAPS. Learners, parents, and teachers may phone our Safe Schools Call Centre not only to report incidents and request support but also for counseling and advice on 0800 45 46 47.”