I live my life, and run my business by the old James Dobson saying, “No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child”. I have worked in the field of child protection for nearly 20 years, and, like many of my friends and colleagues in this field we have dealt with what most don’t even want to talk about. Child Rapists, those that beat children leaving them battered and bruised, those that make movies of child s3x, those that make money by selling children for s3x, syndicate paedophiles and other very evil people. I don’t want kudos for what I’ve done. Actually, I think I am one of the few people I know that has been fortunate enough to be able to wake up every morning and do what I am passionate about. Saving Children & putting those that hurt them in jail. I Love my Job.
Like anyone else who has a passion for something, whatever that something maybe, I actually find myself, when I’m alone, sitting quietly, thinking of ways to do what I do, better…..make children SAFE.
About 2 years ago I had an idea that I believed would significantly make children across South Africa, and even the world, safer. It was a simple idea, but in my opinion, a powerful step to making children safer. It was an idea for an Anonymous Reporting App. I spoke to some techies to develop the IT side and brought on some investors/partners to fund the final stages and assist with clever business strategies to make sure we were safe legally.
I started rolling the App out in a few schools and almost instantly it was a hit. Within the first week a child reported that a friend needed help, and a child suicide was prevented. Children from all over South Africa started downloading the app. Even children whose schools weren’t on board were downloading and reporting their challenges. I met with the National Association of Schools Governing Bodies and they endorsed the solution immediately. I met with the National SAPA (South African Principals Association), and they believed that this should roll into schools as it would make children safer. I presented at the Heads of Boys Schools Conference and again most of those schools signed up. We met with the National Office of the Department of Education who said they wanted us to meet with heads in every province. I met with the provincial heads in the Education Department in every single province. All commented that they believed that this solution would make a difference to the safety of children in their province. Two provinces even asked if we would be prepared to pilot the project at our cost in 10 schools in their provinces and again unbelievable success. Children were literally reporting on everything from Bullying to drugs, and from inappropriate behaviour by teachers to sexual assault. The pilot in all these schools in both provinces was unbelievable.
We have seen success in all schools, from South Africa’s most affluent private schools to no fee-paying schools in rural areas. Boys Schools, Girls Schools, Co-ed Schools, Independent School and Government Schools. It has literally been a success in every type of schooling environment. So my gripe is this, why is this solution not in every single school? A recent article about the Water Polo Coach from a school in Gauteng who has just had the number of charges of Rape and molestation increased from 160 to 327 is shocking. If the App was in the school maybe someone would have reported earlier and less children would have been raped. It is literally possible that children would not have been raped if they had the App. This week I read about a child who has committed suicide as a result of bullying. The drugs in schools and school boarding hostels is mind blowing. Children are getting shot by learners at schools with guns. Children are having to have sex with educators to secure grades. The list of terrors that children are facing everyday is mind blowing. Testimony to how badly the app is needed is that our stats dictate that 32% of learners who have downloaded the app, have used it to report on challenges they or friends are facing. That is testimony to how valuable learners are seeing this solution. Kids are being helped.
A top all boys school head recently commented to say that he had noticed the number of drugs at his school had diminished since the app had been introduced.
Why has it been such a success? Because Children are scared to disclose, and this app gives them the security of anonymity. Yes, we can argue that we should be raising our children to have a higher EQ and not be so conflict adverse, but the reality is, is that learners are not reporting. Let’s bear in mind that the information we are expecting them to report on, is generally to report on someone who they trust, who has violated that trust. Whether that is a parent, uncle, step father, teacher, it is someone who has groomed their way into a position of trust and abused that trust. There are thousands of adults who are survivors of child abuse and they never reported. There are women all over this country in abusive relationships and they never report. Very seldom do we find a case of sexual assault or rape and it has only happened once, generally it is multiple times, but after the first time it wasn’t reported. The reality is that adults, children, all humans, crave so badly for certain people to accept us that when those people hurt us, we will generally only tell those who we think won’t judge us. And for children it is normally other children. This app gives learners the platform to report so help can come before its too late.
The Guardian: South Africa’s Safeguarding Specialist.