Categories News ABESA responds to allegations of grooming and sexual exploitation in some schools Post date 29th Oct 2021 Statement from the Anglican Board of Education for Southern Africa (ABESA)The Anglican Board of Education for Southern Africa, established in 2013, serves to: i) strengthen what the Anglican Church is already doing in the field of education; ii) encourage and foster the creation of more excellent church schools for all, initially through the formalisation and capacitation of ECD initiatives in local churches; and iii) encourage parishes in the ongoing upliftment of all their communities through partnerships with local public schools. Whilst ABESA cannot speak for individual Anglican Church schools, and has no jurisdiction over any Diocesan school; it serves in an advisory capacity to the Archbishop, and to Diocesan Bishops and their schools. The Anglican Church’s ongoing efforts to confront matters of abuse, discrimination and concealment, are currently focussed in the justice work of both the Safe and Inclusive Church Commission, as well as that of the Archbishop’s Task Team on Discrimination in Anglican Church Schools. We are therefore deeply saddened and profoundly distressed for the children, families and schools affected, by the allegations made in the recent podcast series, ‘My Only Story S2’. We condemn in the strongest possible terms the grooming, sexual exploitation or abuse of any child, which may have taken place. We pray for anyone affected, and commend them to the love and care of adults who will nurture their journey of healing. Children in our families, communities and schools are to be loved and honoured in the manner in which Jesus did. Their right to dignity of life and bodily integrity must be respected, nurtured, and intentionally protected from abuse and exploitation. Only in this way will they know that we as adults in their lives take our duty of care seriously. Only in this way do we begin to emulate Jesus’ high regard for children (ref: Mk 9 &10) and take heed of the admonition in Matthew’s gospel which reads: “If anyone causes one of these little ones who trusts in me to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matt 18:6). Whilst we are grateful for the duty of care exercised with great integrity by the overwhelming majority of staff in our schools, any instance of abuse or neglect to take up the required responsibility, is one instance too many. International and national legal precepts, including the South African Constitution, the Schools Act, the Child Protection Act and the Sexual Offences Act, will assist in translating the gospel imperative with respect to children, into effective policy and practice. The Anglican Board of Education (ABESA), together with the Safe & Inclusive Church Commission will gladly support schools and dioceses in ensuring that such policy and practice, designed to enable and advance the safeguarding of children, are set forward in our schools.