Common Child Protection Guidelines of the VSA e.V. and the VSA Trust
Adopted on the 20th of November 2020 by the combined Annual General Meeting of the VSA Trust in South Africa and the VSA e. V. in Germany.
When naming the Village Scribe Association (VSA) in this document, we are referring to both organisations, the VSA e.V. and the VSA Trust.
1. The VSA Trust through its awarenet programme works primarily with minor children in South Africa. As the need of minor children for care, protection and well-being are different from the adult population a separate policy guideline for minors is deemed necessary.
The VSA e.V. in Germany supports the work of the VSA Trust in South Africa in various ways, so the same guidelines also apply to the VSA e. V.
Definition of a child
2. For the purposes of these guidelines and in accordance with South African legislation a child is defined as any person who has not reached the age of 18.
Conditions of employment
3.1. Any successful applicant for employment at the Village Scribe Association, whether for employment on a permanent or temporary basis, is required before employment is finally confirmed to provide a police certificate from all countries the person has been residing in documenting that he or she has not been convicted of any crime against children, whether of a sexual or violent nature.
Failure to provide such a police certificate within a reasonable time will lead to the withdrawal of the offer to the applicant of taking up employment at the Village Scribe Association.
3.2. The successful applicant is also required to sign an affidavit declaring that he or she has never been convicted of a sexual offence against a child as provided for in terms of Section 46(1), (2) and (3) of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 32 of 2007. Failure to sign such an affidavit will lead to the withdrawal of the offer to the applicant of taking up employment at the Village Scribe Association.
3.3. Any employee who during his or her employment at the Village Scribe Association is charged by prosecution authorities for any crime against children will be suspended from his or her employment until the matter has been finalised in court.
3.4. Any employee who during his or her employment at the Village Scribe Association is convicted for any crime against children will be dismissed.
3.5. Volunteers who work full-time for the organisation for more than a month will for the purposes of these guidelines be regarded as employees. Point 3.1 – 3.4 therefore also apply to these volunteers.
General rights of children in the programme of the organisation.
4.1 Children should not be subject to situations where they feel their bodily integrity is not being respected by employees or other children in the programme. Such situations include but are not limited to incidences of physical violence and sexual harassment.
4.2. Children should not be subject to verbal insults, humiliations or belittling neither by employees nor other children in the programme.
4.3. Children have a right to learn in an environment without bullying from other children.
4.4. Children have the right to privacy and should not be pressurised into revealing details about their personal life and close family members.
4.5. Children have the right to have their grievances heard by any employee of the organisation they choose to approach; they should never be silenced without having had the chance to speak their mind.
4.6. Children have the right not to be arbitrarily disciplined by the organisation; disciplinary measurements such as temporary or permanent exclusions from the programme should only be done according to a transparent process where the child is encouraged to express her or his view.
4.7. Children have the right to communicate with employees and other children in their mother tongue when this is one of the languages of the local community; they should never be reprimanded for using their mother tongue.
4.8. Children have the right to be informed about their rights under these guidelines and under South African law in words appropriate to their age.
4.9. The rights listed from 4.1 to 4.8. are not exhaustive; employees must also take cognizance of any other rights of children which can be derived from South African legislation and from the norms of the community in which the organisation operates.
Process of notification of child protection concern
5.1 Anyone who suspects or knows that any of the protections for children set out in these guidelines or in South African legislation is being breached in regard to a child participating in the programme of the Village Scribe Association is encouraged to report this to the organisation.
5.2. The breaches mentioned in 5.1. also include those committed against a child in the programme outside the activities in the programme and by adults or other children who are not part of the Village Scribe Association.
5.3. An employee or board member of the Village Scribe Association is duty-bound to report such knowledge or suspicion of child protection breaches – failure to not do so might result in disciplinary measures being implemented against the employee or board member.
5.4. Third parties not part of the organisation including but not limited to parents, teachers, volunteers, children in the programme and staff of partner organisations are also encouraged to report such breaches to the organisation.
5.5. The manager of the VSA Trust and the chairperson of the VSA e.V. will function as the internal child protection officers.
5.6. A trustee of the board of trustees who does not work in the programme will be the external child protection officer for the VSA Trust, the chairperson of the board will perform this function unless the board designs another trustee to this function. A board member of the VSA e. V. will be the external child protection officer for the VSA e.V.
5.7. When any child protection officer receives a notification about a possible child protection breach she or he needs to record this in writing. The written document in question shall under no circumstances be shared with anyone, who is not part of the formal processes of the case.
5.8. The child protection officer who has received the notification shall seek the advice of the other child protection officer before proceeding with the case – if that is not feasible due to the nature of the case the advice of another employee or trustee of the board will be sought.
5.9. If the child protection officer receiving the notification finds there are no reasonable grounds for concern for any breach of child protection the officer shall write the reasons thereof in a written document and archive the document. The document shall be archived in such a way that only the other child protection officer has access to it.
5.10. If the child protection officer receiving the notification finds there is a reasonable suspicion that there has been a minor breach of child protections by an employee of the Village Scribe Association the employee shall be called into a conversation with the child protection officer to investigate the nature of the breach and determine how the employee can change. A minor breach is here defined as a breach against these guidelines which is clearly not a breach of South African or German law in terms of violent or sexual crimes against children.
5.11. If the child protection officer receiving the notification finds there is a reasonable suspicion that there has been a major breach of child protections by an employee of the Village Scribe Association which might also constitute a crime against children under South African or German law the child protection officer shall immediately notify the board which will determine whether there is ground for suspending the employee while the case is being further investigated internally through interviews with the child/ren in question and the employee. The child protection officer or the board members are also duty-bound to report the matter as a criminal case to the police if they suspect a crime against a child has been committed.
5.12. If the child protection officer receiving the notification finds there is a reasonable suspicion that a crime against children of a violent and/or sexual nature has been committed against any child in the programme of the Village Scribe Association by a person with no connection to the organisation this shall be reported as soon as possible by the child protection officer to a social worker at the department of Social Development in Joza, Makhanda.
5.13. Any child protection officer who is herself or himself the subject of a notification of child protection concern will not function as a child protection officer in the case in question. A notification of child protection concern submitted to the child protection officer concerning his or her own conduct will without unnecessary delay be sent in writing to the other child protection officer of the organisation.
6.1. The Village Scribe Association through its awarenet programme is committed to gender equality and will strive to make sure that any child who takes part in its programme will be given the opportunity to participate and excel regardless of the gender identification of the child.
6.2. Organised classes or courses for children will not be divided according to gender.
6.3. The content material in any specific course or class will be presented to each child equally regardless of gender.
6.4 When a substantial imbalance exists in the representatively of a gender in a class or course conducted by the Village Scribe Association the organisation will take the necessary steps to address that imbalance by actively searching for prospective participants of the gender which is under-represented.
7.1. The Village Scribe Association is committed to assure that children with physical or mental disabilities may take part in the activities of the awarenet programme on an equal level with children without disabilities.
7.2. The Village Scribe Association will assure that there is wheelchair access to its premises, including its computer labs.
7.3. The Village Scribe Association will strive to accommodate children with mental disabilities in its courses and classes. As far as it is possible children with mental disabilities will be integrated in the normal courses and classes.
8.1. The Village Scribe Association recognises that South Africa is a multilingual society and that learning is best done through the use of a child’s mother tongue.
8.2. When communicating with the child the organisation will as far as possible strive to make use of the mother tongue of the child if it is one of the three official languages of the province of the Eastern Cape; isiXhosa, Afrikaans and English.
8.3. The Village Scribe Association currently operate in an environment where isiXhosa is the primary community language and is therefore committed to always have an isiXhosa speaker among its staff to facilitate ease of communication with the children.
HIV and children
9.1. The Village Scribe Association strives to raise HIV awareness among children and integrate children living with HIV in their courses and classes.
9.2. No child will be asked to disclose his or her HIV status.
9.3. Awareness and information about HIV will as a matter of routine be included in the courses and classes conducted by the Village Scribe Association where this is possible.
9.4. The Village Scribe Association will seek to conscientise its employees about HIV and how information about the disease can be presented to children.
9.5. The Village Scribe Association will inform and train its employees in the necessary procedures to prevent a potential HIV-infection should any child or adult experience loss of blood when among children.
Consent of parents
10.1. The signature of a parent or guardian is needed before a child attends a course or class where an activity is done which is deemed as requiring parental consent under South African law.
10.2 Any child who attends an excursion conducted by the Village Scribe Association outside its regular premises requires a signed parental consent before commencement of the excursion.
Access to inappropriate online material
11.1. The Village Scribe Association strives to prevent children from accessing material on the internet deemed inappropriate, this include but it is not restricted to material of a violent, pornographic, racist, xenophobic or homophobic nature.
11.2. When children access websites during classes or courses conducted by the Village Scribe Association the organisation strives to always have supervisors on place who ensure that children do not access websites which are seen as inappropriate.
11.3. Regular courses about online safety will be offered to children. In addition, information about online safety will be integrated in other classes or courses where this is possible.
12.1 When employees take pictures or videos of children attending the organisation’s activities which might be posted on the organisation’s website or social media platforms the children in question will be informed thereof.
12.2. Should any child or a parent/guardian of the child in question object to a picture or video being posted online the organisation will not post said picture/video. Should the objection occur after the picture/video has already been posted the organisation will remove said picture/video as soon as technically possible.
12.3. A picture and video of a child posted online must not disclose personal information about the child nor the child’s family apart from the child’s name when this is relevant for reasons of publicity such as when a child is interviewed.
12.4 A picture or video of a child posted online must accurately portray the situation of the child in question and not sensationalise nor distort reality.