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Absenteeism, sexual harassment hit S.Africa schools: survey

Staff absenteeism, sexual harassment of students and misuse of funds ranked as South African schools’ top problems, in a survey released Wednesday by graft watchdog Transparency International.

Of the 45 local school boards surveyed, 35 percent cited absenteeism by teachers and other staff as the top risk of corruption, with 29 percent citing sexual harassment of students and 27 percent the misuse of school funds.

The survey also canvassed 1,500 school administrators, education associations and students in three provinces.

Among its findings: one out of two students doesn’t always have a desk; 15 percent of schools have no electricity; 10 percent have no running water.

Lax security left students and teachers afraid for their safety, with one in four students citing rape and violence as major problems, the survey said.

A quarter of the schools surveyed were considered at high risk of corruption as a result of poor governance.

“The government needs to strengthen governance controls both at the provincial and school level and ensure that education budgets are used correctly,” said Letshego Mokeki, National Programme Coordinator for Transparency in Service Delivery in Africa.

“The government has a duty to provide quality education for the next generation of South Africans, which is why it must take immediate steps to fight corruption.”

Principals also said schools suffered from corruption at provincial level in buying textbooks, paying staff and constructing school buildings.

Three out of four principals admitted that they didn’t have the required means to run the schools.

South Africa has spent heavily on education since the end of white-minority rule in 1994, with spending on schools accounting for about 5.7 percent of gross domestic product.

But a national assessment released last month found that third graders scored an average 35 percent on a literacy test and 28 percent in maths.