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Impact of the Political, Social, and Economic Environment on Education

The sexual violence South African girls encounter in their schools takes place against the backdrop of a violent South African society. State-sponsored violence used to maintain order was a constant feature of the apartheid regime. The apartheid regime has left a legacy of social and economic inequality. Extremely high levels of violence persist throughout South African society, to which women and girls are not immune. Indeed, women and girls are often most vulnerable, particularly to various forms of gender-based violence-violence that is either directed against women and girls because they are female, or violence that affects women and girls disproportionately.

The South African education system, although engaged in meaningful reform measures, faces severe problems in overcoming the legacy of the past in the face of limited fiscal resources in the present day. An education system so weakened is susceptible to any number of social ills-among them gender violence.3

School Violence and Apartheid Era Education

The political, social, and economic conditions of South Africa have been shaped and devastated by apartheid. The heavy burden this violent legacy places on schools makes it all the more critical that school authorities intervene to stop violence in schools and create safe learning environments for students.4

The South African education system today is still scarred by the racially discriminatory policies of apartheid, and in particular the system of "Bantu Education" imposed by the National Party government. Until the transition to democracy in 1994, the apartheid regime brutally enforced racially discriminatory social policies designed to promote and preserve white domination. During the period of resistance against apartheid schools were transformed into sites of political struggle and frequently became violent spaces.5

Apartheid was formally applied to education in South Africa with enactment of the Bantu Education Act in 1953,6 which required that apartheid education be geared to meet white demand for semi-skilled labor.7 Accordingly, funding for education was also allocated on an unequal basis. Schools attended by blacks were grossly under-funded and understaffed.8

The government's insistence on the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction brought the student resistance movement to a head, culminating in the student demonstrations of 1976 that began in Soweto.9 Already the site of conflict, schools became the locus of increasing violence as the education crisis intensified and student expectations were frustrated.10

Today, school violence poses a fundamental challenge to the government as it confronts the formidable task of dismantling apartheid and inculcating a "culture of learning" among youth who remain disillusioned and marginalized.11 Children's exposure to violence, combined with heightened levels of frustration and increased aggression, have given rise to novel problems within the education system, compromising the culture of learning.12

Sexual Violence in South African Society

The sexual violence that has infiltrated South African schools is prevalent in South African society at large. Human Rights Watch has previously investigated this problem in two reports: Violence Against Women in South Africa: State Response to Domestic Violence and Rape (1995), and South Africa: Violence Against Women and the Medico-Legal System (1997). Since our prior reports, the number of reported rapes in South Africa has risen dramatically, due perhaps both to increased reporting and to an actual increase in violence against women. The reported incidence of rape and attempted rape increased by 20 percent from 1994 to 1999-though there are serious concerns about the quality of the statistics.13

South Africa reportedly has one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world.14 A 1996 comparison of South African crime ratios to those in over one hundred other countries revealed South Africa to be the leader in the incidence of murder, rape, robbery, and violent theft.15 In 1998, three out of ten women surveyed in the Southern Metropolitan region of Johannesburg reported that they had been victims of sexual violence in the previous year.16 Seventy-seven percent of women described sexual violence as "very common" in their areas. Sixty-eight percent of women said they had been subjected to some form of sexual harassment at work or school at some point in their lives.17 One in four young men questioned reported having had sex with a woman without her consent by the time he had reached eighteen.18

According to the most recently available South African Police Service statistics, there were 51,249 cases of rape reported to police nationally in 1999.19 According to the South African police, rape continues to be one of the most under-reported crimes, and therefore unpunished.20 Rape ranks last on the list of South African crimes in terms of conviction rates.21 A considerable percentage of cases are withdrawn before they reach court or during court proceedings.22 There is a significant backlog of cases in the justice system with some rape cases taking as long as two years to be finalized.23 Trials for child victims regularly take longer than trials with adult victims and witnesses.24

The prevalence of rape and violence against women in South Africa remains highly contested. President Thabo Mbeki has criticized the country's rape statistics as inflated and "purely speculative."25 South African women's rights groups counter that the magnitude of the problem cannot be reflected solely in statistics and warn against creating a debate centered around the accuracy of numbers.26 At this writing, Minister of Safety and Security Steve Tshwete and National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi have ordered a moratorium on the release of government crime statistics on the ground that compilation of the statistics requires reassessment.27

Sexual Violence Against Girls

According to a 1997 South African government report, rape and sexual abuse of children are increasing rapidly and are matters of grave concern.28 From 1996 to 1998, girls aged seventeen and under constituted approximately 40 percent of reported rape and attempted rape victims nationally.29 Twenty percent of young women surveyed in southern Johannesburg reported a history of sexual abuse by the age of eighteen.30 Another recent study investigating sexual violence suggests that there has been a steady increase in the proportion of women reporting having been raped before age fifteen.31

According to 1998 figures from the South African Police Service (SAPS) Child Protection Unit and the Victims of Crime Survey from 1999, rape is the most prevalent reported crime against children, accounting for one-third of all serious offenses against children reported between 1996 and 1998.32 According to a SAPS statistical analysis of reported rape cases, the victim age group reflecting the highest rape ratio per 100,000 of the female population is the category of twelve to seventeen-year-old girls, with 471.7 cases.33 The age category of zero to eleven years of age reflected a ratio of 130.1 rapes per 100,000 of the female population.34

Because those who commit acts of sexual violence can also be very young,35 girls may have real reason to fear the threats and taunts of their classmates. The SAPS reportedly has seen increases in the number of children being arrested for acts of sexual violence. In Mitchell's Plain, a township community in the Western Cape, up to 40 percent of the 950 sexual violence cases recorded in 1999 were reportedly committed by children.36 A prosecutor in Durban told Human Rights Watch: "I'm seeing many more younger and younger perpetrators-school aged kids."37

Some researchers attribute the increase in sexual violence against girls to a belief gaining credence in some communities that sexual intercourse with a young virgin can "cleanse" HIV-positive men or men with AIDS of the disease.38 Justice officials in KwaZulu-Natal, for example, are concerned that the myth may be fueling an increase in child rape cases. One prosecutor told Human Rights Watch:

The virgin rape myth is a major problem. I represent a lot of HIV-positive kids, they die. The kids often die before we are able to finish the prosecution of their abuser. We're seeing younger and younger victims with an average age of six-guaranteed to be virgins. I am seeing more than one HIV-positive child a week. I can't completely attribute all their HIV status to the virgin rape myth, because it could be that the mother was HIV-positive, but I do feel the myth is causing an increasing number of younger rape victims.39

Some research suggests that child rape is also committed as a preventive measure to avoid contracting the virus from older women. In part, because they are believed to be HIV-free, younger women and girls have become increasingly attractive to older men as sexual partners, willing or unwilling. Because they are commonly believed to be less likely to be infected, very young girls run an increased risk of sexual harassment on their way to and from school. Girls have been abducted and sexually assaulted in route to school. This has led to isolated cases of such girls being withdrawn from school and to pressure from parents for schools to be built closer to their homes.40

Human Rights Watch is concerned that the prevalence of the belief that sexual intercourse with virgins cures HIV/AIDS may pose a risk to young girls. Our interviews with child abuse activists and counselors indicate that the virgin myth is a real problem.41

It is difficult to say where the myth about sex with a virgin will cure AIDS came from-some believe that it was from traditional healers. What we do know is that it causes enormous suffering to children who become the victims of this misinformation and we believe the myth should be actively targeted in the media and all HIV/AIDS education programs.42

The director of Childline also believes her counselors are "certainly seeing young children who appear to have been the victims of [the myth]. They have been abused by adults and youths who are HIV-positive and ordinarily would not be sexually attracted to or active with children." The director reported: "We know of township youths who specifically target virgin girls and separate them physically from their peer groups-for instance, when walking home from school-and gang rape them."43

At the same time that virgins are being targeted for sexual assault, Human Rights Watch received reports that virginity tests were being conducted at some schools in KwaZulu-Natal.44 Reportedly, at eight schools in Osizweni, local teachers administered tests to as many as 3,000 children and awarded certificates to students who passed.45 There are accounts of children as young as six being pressured to take part in virginity testing conducted by teachers in schools in Osizweni. At some schools in the area, testing reportedly is conducted every three months.

The practice of virginity testing of girls, predominantly in KwaZulu-Natal, has been lauded as a way to delay the sexual activity of youth and prevent the spread of HIV.46 Virginity testing as an HIV/AIDS prevention measure is overly invasive for girls. Virginity testing infringes on a girl child's right to privacy, is gender discrimination, and violates the right to bodily integrity.47 Human Rights Watch maintains that schools are especially inappropriate sites for virginity testing. There is an implicit state endorsement when testing is conducted on school property or by school officials, and we urge an end to school testing, and encourage continued education about HIV/AIDS transmission to dispel the "virgin myth."

Attitudes Towards Violence Against Women

Societal attitudes toward women and girls also contribute to a higher incidence of violence against them.48 According to a recent Gauteng area study, eight in ten young men believed women were responsible for causing sexual violence and three in ten thought women who were raped "asked for it." Two in ten thought women enjoyed being raped.49 Among male youth who knew a woman who had been raped, 7 percent said they thought she must have enjoyed it and 24 percent thought she "asked for it." Nearly half the males surveyed said they had sexually violent male friends. Three in ten men said they could be violent to a girl.

Nearly 50 percent of male youth said they believed a girl who said "no" to sex meant "yes." Nearly a third of both men and women surveyed said forcing sex on someone you know is not sexual violence.50 Some girls even responded that they did not have the right not to be subjected to sexual violence.51 While the majority of men thought "jack-rolling" ("recreational" gang rape) was "bad," young people between the ages of fifteen and nineteen years old were the most likely to say it was "good" or "just a game."52 Eleven percent of fifteen-year-old male youth thought jack-rolling was "cool," with a leap in male opinion in favor of jack-rolling between the ages of sixteen and seventeen.53

Youth attitudes regarding violence against girls help perpetuate violence. To date, the education system has not been effective in changing attitudes or teaching students to control aggression; rather, schools are spaces where violence remains prevalent in part because it is not effectively challenged by school authorities.

School Reform, Conditions, and Structure

The South African government has placed great emphasis on the development of policies to redress the legacy of disparities and inequalities left by apartheid. Significant investments are being made in education.54 The South African Schools Act of 199655 and the National Education Policy Act of 199656 govern the administration of education in South Africa. The South African Schools Act repealed the many discriminatory education laws that existed under the apartheid education system, setting forth a new and nationally uniform education system for the nondiscriminatory organization, management, and financing of schools.

Similarly, the National Education Policy Act is aimed at "the advancement and protection of the fundamental rights of every person" to education as guaranteed in the constitution.57 The act empowers the national minister of education to determine national education policy in terms of the principles embodied in the constitution. The act provides an infrastructure that requires consultation with a wide variety of bodies before determining policy, including a body representative of the organized teaching profession, a national council of college rectors, a national council representative of students, and a national council representative of parents. The act ensures the publication and implementation of national education policy and also calls for the evaluation and monitoring of education in South Africa.

The government dismantled the pre-1994 education system, consolidating the eighteen segregated departments into one central department and nine provincial departments.58 The former Department of National Education has become the Department of Education, which coordinates education at the national level and is mainly responsible for policy formulation and monitoring of implementation.

The constitution vests substantial powers in provincial legislatures and governments to run education affairs subject to the national policy framework, and each province also has an education department.59 South African schools are governed by statutes enacted by the central and the provincial legislatures. Provincial statutes on education vary from province to province, but are essentially the same in that they provide a legal framework and basic legal principles for the provision, governance, and function of education.

The Council of Education Ministers (made up of the national minister of education and the provincial members of the executive councils (MECs) responsible for education), and the Heads of Education Departments Committee (made up of the top civil servants in the national and provincial departments) facilitate cooperation between the national and provincial structures to enable the departments to share information and advice and to collaborate on policy design and implementation. These structures are intended to provide a regular forum for administrative heads of education departments to consult and collaborate in the interests of the system as a whole.

School attendance is compulsory for South African children from the ages of seven to fifteen. The South African education system consists of four phases: junior and senior primary and junior and senior secondary. The junior primary phase includes the first three years of formal schooling, Grade A, Grade B, and Standard three for children aged six to eight. Standards four through six comprise senior primary for children aged nine to eleven. The primary school phase aims at developing basic skills of literacy and numeracy. The junior secondary phase, the seventh to ninth standards for children aged twelve to fourteen, bridges students from primary to secondary education with a broad-based curriculum. The senior secondary phase, the tenth to twelfth school years, prepares students aged fifteen to seventeen for the senior certificate or matriculation certificate examinations commonly known as "matric."60

South Africa's education system is expanding. The 1996 Schools Register of Needs study recorded 27,276 schools in the country. The number of teachers has grown from 145,000 in 1976 to 375,000 in 1996.61 School enrollment has also grown, increasing from 10,099,214 in 1991 to 12,071,355 in 1998, representing an annual growth rate of 2.8 percent.62

South African's gross enrollment ratio in primary schools is 96.5 percent, though there are substantial differentials in gross enrollment by gender. The gross enrollment ratio is higher among males at 98.3 percent than among females at 86.3 percent.63 Gross enrollment gender disparities are more pronounced in some provinces, such as Northern Province and Mpumalanga. The average student-teacher ratio in South African public primary schools is thirty-five-each teacher is responsible for an average of thirty-five students. Student-to-teacher ratios also vary substantially by province.64

Sixteen percent of children six to fourteen years of age are out-of-school, though they should be attending.65 Disparities in the proportions of out of school children vary by place of residence, population group, and gender. Proportions of out-of-school children are highest in the least developed and poorest provinces, with a non-attendance rate of 18.8 percent in the Eastern Cape, while the non-attendance rate is only 9.9 percent in the Western Cape.

Prevalence of out-of-school children also varies significantly by population group. It is highest among African children and lowest among Indians and Asians. Slightly more boys are out of school than girls. However, girls drop out of school earlier than boys, and children in rural areas tend to drop out earlier than those in urban areas.66

The government has acknowledged, in its assessment submitted to the World Education for All Forum 2000, that the physical environment of many schools requires urgent attention. There is still a chronic shortage of classrooms in black schools and student-teacher ratios remain unacceptably high. Most South African primary and combined schools have no access to proper sanitation facilities. Nearly half of the schools use pit latrines that are often inadequate in number and may pose health hazards; 13.5 percent of schools have no sanitation facilities at all. The majority of primary and combined schools, 56 percent, have no electricity. Five percent of primary and combined schools have buildings deemed by the government not to be suitable for education, while another 12.5 percent have buildings that need urgent attention. The condition of buildings is poorest in the Northern Province and in KwaZulu-Natal, where 41 percent and 23 percent of the schools, respectively, either need urgent attention or are not suitable for teaching and learning.67 The government also reported that most schools lack adequate supplies of teaching and learning materials.

The general performance of South African primary school learners has been called "poor" by the government.68 The overall pass rate for the matriculation examination has dropped from 87 percent in 1979 to 48 percent in 1998.69 However, the number of students taking the exam has increased 548 percent over that period, with the number of secondary school graduates rising by 267 percent.70 Most of the students who took the 1999 matriculation examination were female, while most of those who passed were male. In each province, the pass rate was higher for males than females.71

HIV/AIDS and Education

In addition to the challenges associated with school reform, the education system is faced with South Africa's HIV/AIDS crisis. With a total of 4.2 million infected people, South Africa has the largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS of any country in the world.72 The AIDS epidemic is having a massive impact in South Africa's education sector, both on the demand for and supply of education.73

Schools as Spaces for Violence

One of the most significant challenges to learning for many children is the threat of violence at school. South Africa's written submission to the World Education for All Forum, an assessment of the state of education in the country, identified the possession of weapons by students, sexual abuse, the use of alcohol and drugs on school premises, and burglaries as having a debilitating effect on the morale of school managers, educators, and governing bodies.74

Neither the national nor provincial departments of education systematically monitor incidents of violence in schools.75 Similarly, there are no data systems to facilitate the evaluation of crime statistics on the basis of where the crime was committed. While quantitative data on school violence is not available, the existing evidence, confirmed by Human Rights Watch's own research, strongly suggests that violence-sexual or otherwise-is prevalent in many South African schools, undermining the ability of these schools to achieve their developmental and educational objectives.76

School violence emanates from a variety of sources: Violence may be perpetrated by teachers, by students, and even by strangers to the school community. Teachers continue to inflict physical violence on their students in the form of corporal punishment. Although corporal punishment is illegal in South Africa,77 many teachers still see violence as an appropriate tool for child discipline and continue to physically assault children by caning, slapping, and beating them to maintain classroom discipline, or to punish poor academic performance or improper behavior.78

High levels of racially motivated violence among students in formerly white, colored, and Indian schools that are being integrated have been reported. In a 1999 study of students in schools with high levels of racial diversity, 62 percent indicated that there had been a racial incident or racism in school, including derogatory and racial name-calling and various forms of racial harassment often resulting in physical altercations.79

The insecurity of the school environment presents a situation in which children are routinely exposed to gang violence, rape, robbery, and assault. Gangs operate with impunity in some school environments,80 making "schools places where drugs, thugs and weapons can move as freely through the gates as pupils."81 Turf wars between gang members do not just spill onto school grounds; rather, schools become territorial prizes because gangs need a controlled area from which to sell drugs and recruit members. Some schools are so destabilized by gangs that courses are not conducted according to any regular schedule. Teachers report that they sometime fear their own gang-affiliated pupils who carry weapons and smoke dagga.82 Intimidation by gangs can undermine all attempts at creating a culture of learning and teaching.83 Lack of school security is a problem in high crime areas.84 In many schools, teachers and students alike are frightened for their safety.85

3 In this report the terms gender violence and sexual violence are used interchangeably and refer to any physical violence that is directed against women and girls because they are female or violence that affects females disproportionately such as rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, and indecent assault.

Rape is defined consistent with current South African law as unlawful sexual intercourse with a female without her consent. Statutory rape is sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of sixteen.

Sexual assault is used to describe violence or unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature that does not meet the South African legal definition of rape, including but not limited to oral and anal penetration, sexual penetration with objects, and attempted rape.

Sexual harassment is used to refer to unwanted sexual advances whether or not accompanied by physical contact and unsolicited sexualized degrading language. Sexual abuse or gender abuse will be used generally to describe all of the above.

4 In this report "student" is used interchangeably with "learners" and "pupils" to describe children under the age of eighteen years attending school.

5 There is a large literature on the political history of education in South Africa. See, generally, Jonathan Hyslop, Classroom Struggle: Policy and Resistance in South Africa 1940-1990 (Durban: University of Natal Press, 1999); Pam Christie, The Right to Learn: The Struggle for Education in South Africa (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1985); Neville Alexander, Education and the Struggle for National Liberation in South Africa (Trenton: Africa World Press, 1992); Simphiwe Hlatshwayo, Education and Independence: Education in South Africa, 1658-1988 (Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999); Peter Kallaway (ed.), Apartheid and Education: The Education of Black South Africans (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1984); John Marcum (ed.), Education, Race and Social Change in South Africa (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982).

6 Educational segregation based on race in South Africa originated before the advent of apartheid, when Dutch and British settlers founded separate schools for their slaves to teach rudimentary language skills in order to facilitate basic communication. The Cape School Board Act 35 of 1905 was the first official law mandating separate education according to race, paving the way for a long history of separate education for blacks and whites in South Africa. See Andrew van Zyl, "A Historical Overview of South African Education," in E.M. Lemmer and D.C. Badenhorst (eds.), Education for South African Teachers (Pretoria: Juta and Co., 1997), pp. 54-55.

7 "Bantu education" policies were designed to ensure that the vast majority of black children would receive a schooling that did not equip them for anything other than unskilled manual labor, while white children were prepared for an almost complete monopoly of the dominant positions in the society. African girls studied subjects designed to prepare them for jobs as domestic servants. The intention of securing white domination through education was apparent in the National Party's justification for the Bantu Education Act. National Party Minister of Native Affairs (and later Prime Minister) Dr. H.F. Verwoerd maintained:

There is no place for him [the black person] in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour....Until now he has been subject to a school system which drew him away from his own community and misled him by showing him the green pastures of European society in which he will not be allowed to graze.

See F. Troup, Forbidden Pastures: Education Under Apartheid (London: International Defence and Aid Fund, 1976), p. 22.

8 Education for All: The South African Assessment Report 2000 (Pretoria: Department of Education, March 2000), p. 5.

9 Soweto is an acronym derived from South-Western Townships. Soweto is the largest black township in South Africa and is located just southwest of Johannesburg. For discussions on student movements in South Africa, see Jonathan Hyslop, "Schools, Unemployment, and Youth: Origins and Significance of Student and Youth Movements," in Bill Nasson and John Samuel (eds.), Education: From Poverty to Liberty (Johannesburg: David Philip Publishers, 1990).

10 Rueben Mogano, The Resurgence of Pupil Power: Explaining Violence in African Schools, Seminar Paper presented at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, March 24, 1993, Seminar No. 1 (Johannesburg: Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, 1993), available at (accessed December 10, 1999).

11 Ibid., pp. 1-2

12 Ibid., p. 7. For further discussions of the challenges confronting educational reform in South Africa, see, generally, Shireen Motala, Salim Vally and Maropen Modiba (eds.), "A Call to Action: A Review of Minister K. Asmal's Educational Priorities," Quarterly Review of Education and Training in South Africa, vol. 6, no. 3, 1999; Peter Kallaway, Education After Apartheid: South African Education in Transition (Cape Town: UCT Press, 1997); Zandile Nkabinde, An Analysis of Educational Challenges in the New South Africa (Lanham: University Press of America, 1997).

13 South African Police Service, "Semester Report 1/2000, Annexure A: National and Provincial Crime Statistics: January - December: 1994-1999," in The Incidence of Serious Crime in South Africa Between January and December 1999 (Pretoria: Crime Information Analyis Centre, Crime Intelligence, South African Police Service, 2000), available at (accessed November 28, 2000).

14 Internationally, all crimes including rape are reported as incidence statistics for a given year. Statistics on incidence of rape are reported in ratios per 100,000 of the population. South Africa's distinction as a world leader in rape is largely based on a comparison of selected crime ratios from South Africa for the year 1996 with the crime ratios from 113 other Interpol member countries, as reported in International Crime Statistics (Interpol, 1996).

15 South African Police Service, "Semester Report 1/1999, Annexure E: International Crime Ratios According to the 1996 Interpol Report," in The Incidence of Serious Crime in South Africa Between January and December 1998 (Pretoria: Crime Information Analysis Centre, Crime Intelligence, South African Police Service, 1999), available at (accessed November 28, 2000).

16 Alan Martin, "Horror that Stalks Women Everywhere," Sowetan, August 24, 1998.

17 Neil Andersson, Sharmila Mhatre, Nzwakie Mqotsi, and Marina Penderis, Prevention of Sexual Violence: A Social Audit of the Role of the Police in the Jurisdiction of Johannesburg's Southern Metropolitan Local Council (CIETafrica: Johannesburg 1998), p. 10.

18 Cornia Pretorius, "One in Four Men Say They are Rapists," Sunday Times, June 25, 2000.

19 South African Police Service, "Annexure A: National and Provincial Crime Statistics: January - December: 1994 - 1999," The Incidence of Serious Crime in South Africa Between January and December 1999 (Pretoria: Crime Information Analysis Centre, Crime intelligence, South African Police Service, 2000); Glenda Daniles, "Getting Women to Report Rape," Mail and Guardian, August 4, 2000.

20 See Human Rights Watch, Violence Against Women in South Africa: State Response to Domestic Violence and Rape (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1995), pp. 50-51.

21 Ros Hirschowitz, Seble Worku, and Mark Orkin, Quantitative Research Findings on Rape in South Africa (Pretoria: Statistics South Africa, 2000), pp. 21-24. Only one out of eleven (8.9 percent) of all reported rape cases end up in the conviction of the perpetrator whereas half (53.3 percent) of drunken-driving and drug related cases result in conviction. Ibid. See also Andersson, et al., Prevention of Sexual Violence, p. 14.

22 Hirschowitz, et al., Quantitative Research Findings on Rape in South Africa, p. 24.

23 Ibid.

24 Human Rights Watch interview with Thoko Majokweni, Special Director Sexual Offence and Community Affairs Unit, National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa, Pretoria, March 22, 2000.

25 Phindile Ngubane and Robert Brand, "Mbeki Slams `Speculative' Rape Stats," Star, October 28, 1999.

26 In a letter to President Mbeki endorsed by several women's rights groups, Rape Crisis Cape Town expressed concern over his rejection of frequently cited rape statistics. Available at (accessed October 17, 2000).

27 Reportedly, National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi ordered a freeze on the release of all local crime statistics in what has been explained as an attempt to give the police time to reassess and restructure the way the department measures crime. See "Gag on Crime Stats `Till Further Notice,'" Mail and Guardian, July 14, 2000; Ted Leggett, "Crime Statistics Moratorium Is No Solution," Mail and Guardian, August 24, 2000.

28 Government of National Unity, Initial Country Report: South Africa: Convention on the Rights of the Child (South Africa: Government of National Unity, 1997), p. 60.

29 Hirschowitz, et al., Quantitative Research Findings on Rape in South Africa, pp. 21-24.

30 Neil Andersson, Sharmila Mhatre, Nzwakie Mqotsi, and Marina Penderis, Beyond Victims and Villains: The Culture of Sexual Violence in South Johannesburg (Johannesburg: CIETafrica, 2000), pp. 48-59.

31 Human Rights Watch interview with Rachel Jewkes, Acting Director Women's Health Research Unit, Medical Research Council, Pretoria, March 20, 2000; see also Hirshowitz et al., Quantitative Research Findings on Rape in South Africa.

32 See Kimberley Porteus, Tirisano: Towards an Intervention Strategy to Address Youth Violence in Schools Working Document (Pretoria: Secretariat for Safety and Security, the Department of Education and the National Youth Commission, 1999), p. 10, and sources cited therein.

33 South African Police Service, "Statistical Analysis of Reported Rape Cases," in The Incidence of Serious Crime in South Africa Between January and December 1999. For the twelve to seventeen-year-old age group, the Western Cape reflected the highest ratio of rapes at 889.3 per 100,000 of the female population, followed by Gauteng at 722.0.

34 Ibid. For the age category of zero to eleven years, Gauteng was identified as the province with the highest ratio of reported rape cases per 100,000 of the female population with 220.9 cases, followed by the Western Cape at 176.4, Free State at 149.4, and KwaZulu-Natal at 139.2.

35 Girls are the most frequent victims of sexual assault including rape, attempted rape, and other sexual offenses. Fear of sexual violence is very prevalent among girls. Even very young girls are aware of sexual violence and frightened of falling victim to it. One South African researcher told us of focus groups conducted among girls in Gauteng which revealed that

girls as young as eight to twelve knew what rape was; when asked what do you like about being a girl they came up with nothing; they wanted to be boys; they were afraid of rape and boys beating them up. Bullying in schools is a big problem, if not always gender related.

Human Rights Watch interview with Sue Goldstone, Soul City, Johannesburg, March 17, 2000. Soul City is a multi-media project initiated by the Institute for Urban Primary Healthcare. It uses popular entertainment to educate the South African public on various health topics. Soul City develops television and radio programming around particular themes or areas of concern often after conducting research among its potential target audience.

36 Janet Heard, "Young Life Shattered After Horror at School," Sunday Times, August 8, 1999.

37 Human Rights Watch interview with Val Melis, Senior Public Prosecutor, Family Matters, Durban, April 3, 2000.

38 Prega Govender, "Child Rape: A Taboo Within the AIDS Taboo," Sunday Times, April 4, 1999; Peter Dickson, "Myth of `Virgin Cure' May Be Linked to Rape," Sunday Times, September 27, 1998. According to Suzanne Leclerc Madlala, an anthropologist at University of Durban Westville, the "virgin cure" myth is based in the belief that a man will somehow get an infusion of "clean blood" through intercourse with a virgin. Virgins are also believed to have special immunity against sexually transmitted diseases due to a dry vaginal tract. Prepubescent girls are not seen as having the same vaginal secretions of adult women. Leclerc Madlala's research found that the virgin girls were perceived as physically clean, morally clean, uncontaminated, and able to transfer these properties to others. According to Leclerc Madlala,"[the myth] is a sensitive issue with potentially racist overtones, people don't want to confront the issue."

39 Human Rights Watch interview with Val Melis, Senior Public Prosecutor, Durban, April 3, 2000.

40 M.J. Kelly, The Encounter Between HIV/AIDS and Education (Harare: UNESCO, 2000), p.18.

41 Human Rights Watch interview with Joan van Niekerk, Director Childline, Durban, April 8, 2000.

42 Jean Redpath, "Children at Risk," Focus, June 2000, pp. 23-25.

43 Ibid.

44 Prega Govender, "Schoolkids in Virginity Test," Sunday Times, May 17, 1998. According to B. Mohlaka:

Virginity testing was conducted by older women who were often related to the child. Now teachers often conduct this kind of testing. Various other researchers also stated that schoolteachers conducted these examinations mainly on girls, who, should the test be passed, were awarded with virginity certificates.

B. Mohlaka, Member of Parliament, Address at the Commission on Gender Equality Consultative Conference on Virginity Testing (June 12, 2000).

45 Govender, "Schoolkids in Virginity Test," Sunday Times. According to Futhi Zikalala of the Commission for Gender Equality: "The way these [virginity] tests are done infringe on a girl's right to privacy. Girls have to lie on their backs with their panties off and legs up in the air, preferably on a sloped floor." Human Rights Watch interview with Futhi Zikalala, Provincial Manager, Commission for Gender Equality, Durban, March 30, 2000.

46 Ansuyah Maharaj, "Virginity Testing a Matter of Abuse or Prevention?," Agenda, no. 41, 1999; "South Africa: Virginity Testing," IRIN HIV/AIDS Weekly, Issue 8, January 5, 2001; Chris McGreal, "Virgin Tests Make a Comeback," Mail and Guardian, September 29, 1999; Zwelihle Memela, "Virginity Testers Fight for Their `Cultural Rights,'" Natal Witness, December 6, 2000.

The practice of virginity testing is not limited to KwaZulu-Natal. According to women's rights groups, testing is increasing in prevalence. In response to the growing prevalence of virginity testing in the South Africa, the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE), the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), and the National Youth Commission (NYC) hosted a consultative conference June 12 to 14, 2000. See CGE Consultative Conference on Virginity Testing Report. The conference brought together virginity testers and others to discuss ways of promoting gender equality by harmonizing cultural practices with constitutional provisions.

Proponents of virginity testing maintain that the practice is being revived for a variety of reasons, including: a return to Zulu (African) culture; prevention of HIV/AIDS and teenage pregnancy; promotion of morality; detection of child sexual abuse and incest; and preservation of virginity before marriage. See "Virginity Testing as Cultural Practice," CGE Conference Report (June 2000), pp. 20-26.

The CGE and others have objected to virginity testing on gender equality grounds. The CGE maintains that virginity testing violates the privacy of a child because it is often conduced in public in open fields or community halls. CGE has raised concerns that there is no standard training or guidelines to qualify one to become a tester, that testers use different methods, and that they do not adhere to principles of hygiene and could encourage the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. The CGE has noted that virginity testing has failed to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS or teenage pregnancies. See "Culture Human Rights, and Virginity Testing," CGE Conference Report (June 2000), pp. 32-44.

Child abuse counselors are concerned that testing may raise the threat of abuse or discrimination against girl children who fail the tests. In one case reported to Childline, a girl's relatives broke both her arms after she failed a virginity test. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Joan van Niekerk, Childline, January 12, 2001.

47 For additional discussion of virginity testing and violations of women's physical integrity, see Human Rights Watch, A Matter of Power: State Control of Women's Virginity in Turkey (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1994).

48 Lisa Vetten, "Roots of a Rape Crisis," Crime and Conflict, no. 8, Summer 1997; see also Lauren Segal, Joy Pelo, and Pule Rampa, "`Asicamtheni Magnets-Let's Talk, Magents:' Youth Attitudes Towards Crime," Crime and Conflict, no. 15, Autumn 1999.

49 Andersson et al, Beyond Victims and Villains, pp. 53-57. CIETafrica researchers interviewed youth on three separate occasions, surveying 1,471 youth in 1998, 9,555 youth in 1999, and 16,338 youth in 2000. Youth were of school age ranging from ten to eighteen years of age, attending grades 8-12, and representing twenty-five schools in Johannesburg.

50 Ibid.

51 Ibid.

52 Ibid., p. 24.

53 Ibid., p. 56.

54 The proportion of the total budget allocated to education has remained virtually constant between 1995 and 1998, averaging 22 percent. Department of Education, Education for All: The South African Assessment Report 2000 (Pretoria: Department of Education, March 2000), p. xii. There has been an increase in overall expenditure on education, with expenditure increasing from R34.1 billion in 1995-96 to R45.2 billion during 1998-99. Per capita expenditure on primary school education is R2,370. Ibid.

55 The South African Schools Act, No. 84 of 1996.

56 The National Education Policy Act, No. 27 of 1996.

57 Ibid., Section 4.

58 Department of Education, Education for All Assessment, pp.10-11.

59 South Africa is divided into nine provinces, each with its own legislature. The 1996 constitution makes provisions for nine provinces, each with its own education department tasked with delivering education in accordance with the national education policy.

60 See E.M. Lemmer (ed.) et al., Education for South African Teachers, p. 152. A matriculation certificate is a prerequisite for tertiary education in South Africa.

61 Nearly a quarter of primary school educators are deemed not appropriately qualified (either unqualified or under qualified) by the government and their employment is allowed due only to a human resource shortage, especially in rural areas. Department of Education, Education for All Assessment, pp. 28-29.

62 Department of Education, Education for All Assessment, pp. 28-29.

63 Ibid., p. 30. Gross enrollment measures the total number of enrollees in primary school as a percentage of the total population of primary school age children. It differs from net enrollment by including in its count older pupils as well as the number of official grade-level pupils in each grade.

64 Ibid., p. 33. The Western Cape has the lowest student-teacher ratio and the highest budgetary allocation for primary education.

65 Ibid., p. 35.

66 Ibid., p. 36.

67 Ibid., p. 37.

68 The average score obtained by standard four students targeted in the 1999 South Africa Monitoring Learning Achievement (MLA) Survey was below 50 percent in all the tasks in which they were tested: literacy, numeracy, and life skills tasks. Department of Education, Education for All Assessment, p. xiv. Test scores for the year 2000 improved considerably over 1999. However, while more girls again registered for the exam, significantly fewer passed than their male peers. See Julia Grey, "Exam Results Show a Long Road Ahead," The Teacher (Mail and Guardian), January 11, 2001.

69 "Shocking Stats on Matric Pass Rate," available at, January 13, 2000 (accessed February 3, 2000).

70 According to a 2000 survey conducted by the South African Institute for Race Relations, only 6 percent of the population over the age of twenty had some form of post-matriculation education, and only 16 percent had completed grade 12. "Shocking Stats," available at (accessed February 3, 2000).

71 In 1999, although females made up 55.7 percent of the 511,474 candidates in all nine provinces, the number of females who passed was only 46.1 percent, compared to 52.3 percent for males. "Gender Gap in Matric Pass Rate," available at, January 1, 2000 (accessed February 3, 2000). In 1996, more girls than boys took matriculation exams in each province, but proportionally fewer girls than boys passed. "Schoolboys in a Class of their Own," Sunday Times, January 5, 1997.

72 Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, Report on the Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic (Geneva, UNAIDS, June 2000), p. 9.

73 According to the U.N., the HIV/AIDS epidemic is eroding the supply of teachers resulting in increased class sizes, and ultimately diminishing the quality of education. With the teacher shortage expected to worsen, researchers calculate that over 71,000 children aged six to eleven will be deprived of a primary education by the year 2005. Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, Report on the Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic, p. 29. See also "HIV/AIDS in Africa: Placing it High on the Agenda of ADEA," Association for the Development of Education in Africa Newsletter, vol. 12, no. 2, April-June 2000, pp. 4-6; Charlene Smith, "SA Faces AIDS-Related Education Disaster," Mail and Guardian, July 26, 2000.

74 Department of Education, Education for All Assessment, p. 42. See also Corina Pretorius, "Schools Gripped by Fear," Sunday Times, January 31, 1999.

75 Porteus, Tirisano: Towards an Intervention Strategy to Address Youth Violence in Schools, p. 6.

76 Ibid.

77 The South African Schools Act 84 of 1996, Section 10, prohibits the administration of corporal punishment in schools and provides for criminal sanction. See also Julia Sloth-Nielsen, "Corporal Punishment: Whipping Lobby Nears its Final Beating," ChildrenFirst vol. 3, no. 27, October/November, 1999. In Christian Education SA v. Minister of Education of the Government of South Africa, a private school challenged Section 10, asserting that the provision should be ruled unconstitutional and invalid to the extent that it prohibited the use of corporal punishment in independent or private schools. The Constitutional Court of South Africa affirmed the legality of the corporal punishment ban, concluding that whipping, whether judicially imposed or imposed in schools, is a violation of the constitutional right to be free from "all forms of violence, not to be tortured, and not to be treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way." In S v. Williams, the South African Constitutional Court abolished whipping as a juvenile sentence to be imposed by courts.

78 Reports of corporal punishment frequently appear in local press. See Matthew Burbidge, "Principal Admits Supervising Pupils Beating," Mercury, March 15, 2000; Craig Bishop, "Religious Teacher on Trial After Pupil Dies from Beating," Sunday Times, September 26, 1999. According to Childline, reports of corporal punishment in schools made to Childline increased in 2000. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Joan van Niekerk, Childline, January 12, 2001.

79 Porteus, Tirisano: Towards an Intervention Strategy to Address Youth Violence in Schools, p. 29, citing S. Vally, Y. Dalamba, Racism, Racial Integration, and Desegregation in South African Public Secondary Schools (Pretoria: South African Human Rights Commission, 1999).

80 The Independent Projects Trust (IPT), a Durban based nongovernmental organization, examined ten Durban schools during 1997 to identify the sources and conditions promoting violence and possible ways to address the problem. IPT found gang-related violence and inadequate school security were significant problems for children. Children in nine of ten schools identified gang-related violence as the "number one" problem, with the worst reports coming from Kwa Mashu and Newlands East. Children were very familiar with the existence of gangs, knew the names of gangs, and knew which boys in school were affiliated with gangs. Human Rights Watch interview with Val Smith, IPT, March 29, 2000; Richard Griggs, Children at Risk: The Security Situation in Durban Schools (Durban: IPT, 1997).

81 Richard Griggs, "School Violence: A Culture of Learning About Drugs, Thugs, and Guns," ChildrenFirst, February/March 1998.

82 Common slang usage for marijuana.

83 Students in IPT focus group sessions spoke about a culture of silence; since they were the targets of gang activities, they were reluctant to reveal the severity of violence. Human Rights Watch interview with Val Smith, IPT, March 29, 2000.

84 Human Rights Watch interview with Alexandra township teacher, Johannesburg, March 27, 2000. One township teacher complained "We don't have security at our school. Thugs come right in and abduct girls as well as boys. There is no police presence. They only come if something is wrong."

85 See student essays contained in Appendix B. In the essays, children describe in their own words their experiences with and thoughts and feelings about crime and violence in their lives and schools. Student essays were provided by the Crime Reduction in Schools Program (CRISP), a program based at the University of Natal funded primarily by the South African Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology Innovation Fund.

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