Debbie Schafer. Picture: SUPPLIED
Debbie Schafer. Picture: SUPPLIED

Equal Education has been ordered to stop operations at Western Cape schools due to accusations of sexual misconduct.

On Friday the organisation announced that its members were "deeply distressed" by the allegations of sexual harassment against three top managers.

All three managers have tendered their resignations in the past month.

In response‚ on Monday‚ Western Cape education MEC Debbie Schafer expressed her concern, saying Equal Education worked in schools throughout the province.

While allegations were made by members of the organisation‚ she said, it was not clear whether children were involved.

Should the allegations be true‚ "this is hardly the type of person we need working in our schools," she said.

"I have therefore written to Equal Education requesting that they furnish me with the details regarding every interview or engagement conducted by [the men] so far this year with any female learner in the Western Cape.

"I have requested the names of learners‚ the school that these learners attend‚ the date of the interviews and who was present during the interviews. I require this information by this Friday‚" Schafer said.

"I have also demanded an undertaking by 5pm on Tuesday that they will cease operations in Western Cape schools until such time as we have had an opportunity to meet them and discuss the way forward. Should we not receive such undertaking‚ we shall instruct our schools not to allow anybody from Equal Education‚ and who is not a learner at the school‚ onto school premises." She has also instructed the province’s chief director for districts to start investigating what measures have been taken by nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) working at schools to vet their members.

Meanwhile, the organisation had acted "swiftly" to address the allegations. "This has been an incredibly difficult period for Equal Education. We know that the trust and confidence that our supporters have placed in us‚ and the reputation we have built over 10 years of struggle‚ have been damaged by what has transpired. However‚ we are committed to confronting these difficult times in our movement’s history with honesty and with integrity‚" the statement read.

"We recognise this as an important moment of reckoning with class‚ race and gender-power imbalances — issues that permeate our society as a whole. We care deeply about our core mission — the struggle for access to quality education for all — and we are determined to deal with these issues decisively." Schafer said sexual abuse against young, female learners was prevalent in communities and Equal Education had highlighted the scourge. Therefore it is "distressing" that such allegations have been levelled at high-ranking members of the organisation.

She also noted allegations that one of the men allegedly offered a "job for sex" to a volunteer at the organisation.

Equal Education has run several successful campaigns including scholar transport‚ school infrastructure, and safety and sanitation at schools. It has also funded many court matters on who had power to establish capacity at government schools, including the Rivonia Primary School case.

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