Higher Education Department Has Plans To Tackle GBV On Campuses But Is It Enough?

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With 2 600 gender-based violence incidents being reported at higher education institutions last year, the Department of Higher Education is being called to implement effective strategies to ensure the safety of students. The Department has said that it has plans in place.

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We are only seven months into the 2023 academic year and there have already been many stories of gender-based violence and femicide attacks taking place at higher education institutions in the country. As students have called for safety and security for students, members of parliament have question the department about their plans to tackle GBV at campuses.

Sibongiseni Ngcobo, a member of the Parliamentary Committee of Higher Education,questioned the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, on the rising levels of gender-based violence and other crimes in institutions of higher learning and training.

The Department of Higher Education and Training is said to be working on a framework to address violence on campuses which they hope will be implemented before the 2024/25 financial year.

The work on the development of safety and security blueprint for universities which will serve as a framework for universities to have minimum norms and standards on the provision of safety and security measures at the universities is underway. 

The department has also been liaising with universities to assess and understand the different threats to universities and their students. Through this, they then identify what needs to be urgently addressed with the department saying that this includes the need to improve protection of staff members and students.

"Funds have been made available in the Infrastructure Efficiency Grant (IEG) for safety and security projects submitted by universities to the Department. These include upgrading of universities security systems," they continued.

Strategies To Tackle GBV On Campuses

Nzimande will establish a National Task Force who's job it will be to assist in the development of intervention strategies to assist with campus safety and security measures. The GBV Technical Task Team is there to ensure the effective and coordinated implementation of the DHET GBV Policy Framework.

The department also has a Policy Framework in place to address GBV in the sector. The framework entails that all institutions must raise awareness about GBV, prevent the occurrence of GBV and have procedures in place for reporting and dealing with GBV to support survivors.

Higher Health has also released Procedural Guidelines on GBV, Sexual and Gender Related Misconduct in PSET Institutions; Protocol on Rape and Sexual Assault Cases in the PSET campuses; and Protocol on the PSET Code of Ethics. On this, the department explains:

These instruments also serve as directives to all institutions to put the necessary infrastructure towards a comprehensive response on cases of sexual and gender misconduct, rape, sexual assaults across all our campuses.

"All universities work cooperatively with Higher Health in implementing programmes towards addressing the challenges of sexual and gender-based violence within the PSET system. Its programme of implementation incorporates prevention, systems strengthening, capacity and skills building, care and support."

In 2022, more than 2 600 incidents of GBV were reported at universities and colleges across the country with the South African Medical Research Council reporting that 10% of all reported rape cases in the country occur at institutions of higher learning. 

Furthermore, in a research study conducted by Higher Health, it was indicated that 62% of students felt unsafe on campus and are at risk of GBV, and 60% of service staff and 71% of academics felt unsafe. 

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A woman holding her hand up with the message 'Stop GBV'

Students at higher education institutions have called on universities to prioritise their safety against Gender-based Violence and Femicide on campus. 


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