Iconic School Hosts World Day Against Trafficking Event
30 January 2023
Technology has become both an enabler of trafficking and also a possible tool to fight the crime.
A popular rural school in South Africa’s Limpopo Province hosted this year’s main commemoration of the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons which was jointly organized by the Department of Justice and Correctional Services and the United National Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Mphaphuli Secondary School, an iconic school in Thohoyandou District, was established in the 1920s and has grown exponentially, largely due to the support given by the local community. Among its former students is President Cyril Ramaphosa and renowned boxer Phillip N’dou.
World Day Against Trafficking is marked annually on 30 July. In commemoration of the day, about 1,500 school children interacted with dignitaries who included the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola. The Minister commissioned a computer centre with 10 computers and furniture bought through the UNODC.
The event held under the global theme of the day, “Use and Abuse of Technology”, was meant to emphasize that technology has become both an enabler of trafficking and also a possible tool to fight the crime.
Human trafficking has worsened since the onset of the internet. Among traffickers’ most preferred ways of luring their victims is posting fake job offers online or promising employment opportunities mostly in far off lands. Such recruitment and coercion often occur through targeting on social media.
Thus, the computers provided to Mphaphuli Secondary School are meant to support students to achieve computer literacy and to learn how to safely navigate the cyber space.
Speaking at the event, Minister Lamola said online connectivity was among the manifestation of globalization which presented both opportunities and dangers, including human trafficking. The internet, he emphasized, allowed people to interact easily and in real time, including on social media platforms like WhatsApp.
The minister added that it was strategic that the commemoration was taking place at Mphaphuli Secondary School, which is situated not far away from South Africa’s busiest land border crossing at Beitbridge, a factor that increased the risk of trafficking.
UNODC Regional Representative, Jane Marie Ongolo implored the learners to always navigate the internet safely, including refraining from accepting friend requests from strangers and not falling for offers that appear too good to be true.
Sarah Rammbuda, the local mayor of Thulamela Municipality, said while learners might not fully understand the threat of human trafficking, “as leaders we have a duty to guide them.”
Earlier in the day, both Minister Lamola and Ms. Ongolo spoke on the dangers of human trafficking in an interactive discussion with students at the University of Venda, located a stone’s throw from Mphaphuli Secondary School.
Ongolo said anyone can become a victim of human trafficking. “Traffickers are now using the internet to lure those they want to traffic. This place is not that far from the border, so we need to be careful about human trafficking.”
Turning to drug abuse – another UNODC area of focus – Ongolo urged the university to work at being the site of a proposed e-learning tool that would enable the community to learn about the dangers of drug abuse. She said discussions were underway to explore other possible areas of cooperation between UNODC, the university and agencies under the Department of Justice.