Department Unveils Plans To Strengthen Student Safety and Tackle GBV On Campuses

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As students in tertiary institutions continue to face issues of gender-based violence and other threats to their safety, the Department of Higher Education and Training has revealed ways which they plan to keep students safe. 

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The Department of Higher Education and Training and Higher Health has continually monitored the levels of gender-based violence (GBV) which has remained high in the country and specifically within the higher education sector. 

Higher Health, a government agency which develops and implements health, wellness, GBV, mental health and other programmes in the higher education sector, conducted a study which found that 62% of students do not feel safe on campus and consider themselves to be at high risk to GBV. 

GBV puts female students especially in physical danger and causes psychological stress. 

In terms of the staff at the higher education institutions, 60% service staff and 71% academic staff did not feel safe on campus. 

This along with other evidence informed the GBV policy framework, which was introduced in 2020 to create an enabling environment in order to further understand the factors which drive GBV and to prevent and respond to issues of GBV in higher education institutions. 

A GBV Technical Task Team was formed and is made up of experts in various fields including research, safety and security, policy making, psychosocial and medical specialities and student and academic leadership.

The Deputy Minister of Police, Cassel Mathale says together with the Task Team they need to come up with better mechanisms to improve campus security and escalate challenges to the ministry so that they can act immediately. 

"South African Police Services are on board and we will fight Gender-Based Violence to the end at campuses and not retreat." said Mathale. 

Higher Health together with the GBV task team has prepared 8 protocols that will guide the sector and its institutions on how to deal with GBV. 

These protocols will focus on being complainant/survivor-friendly and make the roles and responsibilities of all the stakeholders involved clear. These stakeholders include institutional management, academia, transformation/gender officers, security and other staff, student formations and policing and justice agencies.

The protocols will facilitate measures such as safe rooms, disciplinary committees, writing of complaints, and collection of evidence so that it stands up in court, the conduct of staff-student relationships and actions to ensure better safety on campus and in student residences. 

The Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Buti Manamela has said that the department needs to find a mechanism with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Department of Police and Higher Health that will give a report every year to all 3 Deputy Ministers involved in this Task Team. 

The report would include all the work being done to prevent the occurrence of GBV at institutions, measure the impact of the protocols put in place, the role that police are playing on campuses, the judicial system and the institutional capacity. 

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Progress made through GBV interventions

Gender-based violence is a widespread issue, with incidences occurring on tertiary institution campuses across the country. However, the government has established various interventions to help combat this issue, recently yielding positive results and taking a step in the right direction. 

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