At a recent meeting with the entire parent body of The Torah Academy Johannesburg, Mr. Luke Lamprecht, director of the Johannesburg Parent and Child Centre, told the hundreds of mothers and fathers: “Parents need to be proactive and have a preventative approach to abuse.” He emphasized the unique role that parents can play in monitoring the safety of their children alongside the efforts of the school.
Over the past few years, the social work department and other key personnel of Torah Academy have been involved in proactive training and workshops relating to the broad area of safety of school students and with specific regard to abuse or sexual misconduct.
After perusing through many local and international policy documents, the Torah Academy Principals’ Forum together with the Social Work Department created a Torah Academy policy document relating to the safety of the students and staff. This document complies with acceptable standards of Halacha, Torah values and South African legislation. It defines acceptable behavior, clarifies school safety rules and outlines the processes and procedures that Torah Academy will follow in order to protect students and staff.
The leadership of the school and the entire teaching staff and their assistants have received extensive training. Proactive, age appropriate workshops have been presented in all classes – nursery school to 12th Grade. Ongoing liaison and consultation with experienced professionals who specialize in child safety, has been established.
Dalya Erster, who heads up the social work department at Torah Academy also addressed the parents. She emphasized that abuse transcends all socio-economic, educational, racial and cultural groups in South Africa. Abuse could be by omission, through neglect, or commission, through assault and emotional abuse which includes contact or through cyberspace. “Parents could also be negligent, increasing the chances of compromising the child” she said.
In his introduction, Rabbi Dovid Hazdan, dean of Torah Academy, spoke about the Parshat Hashavua and the two signs with which we identify Kosher fish. Torah signs are not arbitrary. They have an inherent connection to kosher living. The Rebbe explains that fins represent direction, speed, accuracy movement goals and ambition. Scales represent armour, defence systems and protection. At best, these are not achieved by walls and trenches but by personal integrity, values and moral religious commitment that protect our quality of life.
In education, we develop confidence, ambition, determination, focus and goals which are the fins. But we also motivate scruples, moral values and responsibilities which are the scales.
It is vital that we inspire children to have confidence and drive and that we do so in a wholesome, protected and safe environment.
The presentation of a short video included students aged 3 to 17 expressing their personal thoughts on safety and expressing their appreciation for the process of training and education in this regard.
A short video about the school was also screened.
The Torah Academy has already trained all members of staff as well as all students from play school to matric in its Protective Behaviour Programme. The presentation to the well-attended parent meeting secured the involvement of this third vital dimension.