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Harrowing M-Net series shines light on sexual abuse at elite boys schools

M-Net documentary series 'School Tie' highlights extent of sexual abuse at South Africa's elite boys schools, along with the many red flags that are easy to miss, according to leading experts.

Leading South African experts unpacks sexual abuse red flags in ‘School Ties’, a harrowing four-part M-Net documentary series about the grooming and sexual abuse of learners at some of South Africa’s most prestigious boys’ schools.

Produced by Devilsdorp, Steinheist and Convict Conman producers Idea Candy, the docuseries, which airs exclusively on M-Net (DStv 101) on Thursday May 16, uncovers the truth behind grooming and abuse in schools across the country, the aftermath and what government, schools and society are doing to stop abuse in its tracks.

Exploring how this worrying phenomenon has unexpectedly found its way into some of the country’s prominent boys schools and what the lifelong effects are in the series is a team of experts in children’s rights, child protection and other legal, psychological and law enforcement areas.

Episode 1: Nec Aspera Terrent

Childline South Africa CEO Dumisile Nala and child protection and development specialist Luke Lamprecht contribute their insights to episode 1, which explores the suicide of 16-year-old Thomas Kruger from St Andrew’s College, which led to the uncovering of allegations of grooming by Thomas’s water polo coach.

Episode 2: Arise

The episode which delves into how former Parktown Boys’ High School educator Collan Rex normalised violent and sexual behaviour in the boarding house and in the swimming pool. More insights into this gripping story are shed by child protection activist and journalist Robyn Wolfson Vorster, who published more than 75 articles about children and their vulnerabilities – mostly for the Daily Maverick.

Episode 3: Lux Vita Caritas

In the series’ penultimate episode, clinical psychologist Marita Rademeyer brings her expertise to explain how Julio Murdoh and numerous other boys were allegedly abused by a coach at St John’s College – and how the long-term psychological damage may have led to Julio taking his own life while at a treatment centre, a decade later.

A seasoned clinical psychologist with a profound dedication to supporting children and families affected by trauma and abuse spanning over three decades, Rademeyer’s expertise extends to co-authoring several influential books, including Voices of Hope and Rainbows of Hope, which offer healing stories tailored for Africa’s children. 

Episode 4: Nemo Resideo

The final episode details ‘Operation Nemo’, an investigation into a ring of school coaches who are accused of sex offences. The operation, led by SAPS Colonel Heila Niemand, shocked the country with its harrowing discoveries.

Colonel Niemand lends her insights to this episode as the Lead Investigating Officer of Operation Nemo and Head of the family violence, child protection and sexual offences unit for SAPS. 

The episode also spotlights the courageous work of former international tennis player Olivia Jasriel, a trailblazer for historical abuse cases, having achieved landmark convictions against disgraced tennis player Bob Hewitt in 2015 for the abuse he perpetrated while she was coached by him as a child. This contributed to the abolishment of the 20-year limit on reporting sexual crimes in 2018 and in the past few years assisted victims of abuse in sport in obtaining convictions for the abuse they experienced.

School Tues; objectives and streaming outlets

‘School Ties’ aims to bring into focus the solutions and interventions that need to be adopted to safeguard learners at schools. Although the tragedies that have occurred are heart-breaking, the docuseries will provide the opportunity to ensure South African authorities review and address the systems that should be protecting learners. 

You can watch the ‘School Ties’  docuseries on M-Net (DStv channel 101), at 9pm, each week for four weeks, from Thursday May 16. The series will also live-stream on DStv Stream and will be available on DStv Catch Up after broadcast.

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