Children are among society’s most valuable and vulnerable citizens yet crimes against them are perpetrated on a daily basis.

The state has in place a number of legal requirements aimed at people who work with children. It was recently announced that all new teachers registering with the South African Council of Educators (SACE) will be required to obtain and submit police clearance certificates from January 2019.

Recently, the Gauteng MEC for Education, Panyaza Lesufi said school governing bodies from the province are to be vetted as well, when he presented the department’s 2018/2019 financial budget.

Additionally, anyone working with children is required to be screened against the National Register for Sex Offenders (NRSO), which is a record of names of those found guilty of sexual offences against children and mentally disabled people.

Rudi Kruger, GM of LexisNexis Data Services, says while legal requirements like the NRSO existed, it was not always easy to access this database as it follows an application process.

However, he said school management have the opportunity to take their own precautions when access to the NRSO is delayed by conducting background screening on teachers and school staff.

The benefits of background screening, according to Kruger, is that it assists with uncovering valuable information which could be useful in determining whether a person is fit and suitable to be around children unsupervised.

One of the most valuable checks in this regard is criminal history. “Criminal checks conducted on a teachers, general staff and volunteers helps schools truly understand their potential for dangerous behaviour by uncovering their history of illicit activity, past convictions and misdemeanours.

“This is useful as anyone found to have a history of being involved in criminal activity can be considered a risk to those they come into contact with, especially minors,” says Kruger.

He adds that criminal checks also assist in detecting dishonest and untrustworthy characters, who may have excluded their criminal backgrounds from the application or lied in other declarations.

A background screening solution like Lexis RefCheck is not only valuable to the corporate sector, but to schools and institute for children, as it offers various useful checks including AFISwitch Criminal Illicit Activity Check, the only criminal verification check available to the South African corporate market since the discontinuation of the SAPS Name Clearance Criminal Check in mid-2011.