In response to an open letter from academics at public universities on sexual harassment and gender-based violence, to the Minister of Higher Education and Training Naledi Pandor in March, a nine-person task team has been appointed to advise the Department on the issue.
According to IOL News, the task team has been given a 12-month period, starting from June, to complete this mandate and also advice on a possible inquiry into sexual harassment in the university sector.
“Following the letter, the minister met the group of academics to discuss the proposals they had made. The meeting agreed that addressing sexual harassment and gender-based violence decisively would allow for a focus on fundamental academic questions and restore academic cultures that respected freedom and citizenship of all,” said the Department’s spokesperson, Lunga Ngqengelele.
IOL News adds that the group is from different higher education institutions, and it urged the government to launch a special inquiry into sexual offences against staff and students. The group also noted that sexual offences had become normalised in higher education and affected black female employees who were pressured to exchange sex for jobs.
“The appointed team would identify policy weaknesses across institutions that may be contributing to failures in this regard. Also a policy framework to address gender-based violence in the post-school education and training sector had been released for public comment,” concluded Ngqengelele.