Curbing sexual harassment in schools
Sexual harassment is any form of unwanted sexual behaviour that is intimidating offensive or shameful. Sexual harassment is considered a felony in Nigeria and guilty parties are liable to imprisonment for three years. Sexual harassment comes in different forms such as requesting for sexual favours and other physical, verbal and visual conducts which are sexually suggestive; that when rejected by or agreed to, affects the participant in the following ways:
Sexual harassment takes place in different places, such as schools, religious institutions, offices and so on. Sexual harassment is prevalent in academic institutions today at different levels, from primary to tertiary level while affecting both genders.
Sexual harassment in tertiary institutions takes different forms with the most common being sex for marks. Teachers, lecturers and instructors in positions of power intimidate students into submitting to their whims and caprices, by explicitly or inexplicitly suggesting that students would be graded poorly unless they submit to their sexual advances. Although female students make up a larger percentage of victims, male students are also affected. Students are threatened with carry-overs and poor marks if they don’t do sexual favors for these lecturers. In recent times, some high profile sexual assault cases have made headlines including the OAU sex-for-marks case featuring Richard Akindele, a former lecturer who was recently fired from the institution for allegedly demanding sex from one of his students, Monica Osagie, in exchange for a pass mark in a course she failed. The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, has picked an interest in the case and charged the randy lecturer to court. He appeared at the Federal High Court, Osun state, where the judge ordered that he be remanded in Ilesa prison, pending the filing of a formal bail application. Vanguard
Another form that sexual harassment takes is the sex-for-admission. Ignorant candidates are deceived that they have to go through a lecturer or Head of Department to gain admission into a tertiary institution and thus are at the mercy of such corrupt people. Admission is usually processed through the office of the registrar but candidates who favor back door process end up being scammed out of money or harassed. One of such cases recently came to light, a former lecturer in the Department of Information Technology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Nasarawa State University, Mohammed Yau Baire was arrested after he allegedly demanded sex from a married woman to help her procure admission into the institution. His arrest came as the student was smart enough to alert the authorities who promptly took action. pulse.ng
Sexual harassment in schools is an issue that needs stricter policies for it to be eradicated. Offenders should face heavier sanctions and not just possible dismissals, as lengthy jail terms should be considered for offenders that are found guilty. Universities have a huge part to play in this issue as they need to restructure disciplinary committees. Disciplinary committees should not be made up of other lecturers as students may fear that since lecturers know one another, their cases may be doomed from start. Universities should consider having independent individuals with no ties to the school, on such panels. They may be selected from an array of respected individuals in professional fields, law enforcement and religious bodies. These individuals are entrusted with conducting transparent, speedy and judicious investigations into reported cases.
Another method of eradicating sexual harassment is proper sensitization of students on their individual rights in an academic environment. Students should be made aware that they can call for their scripts at any time if they are unsatisfied with the mark awarded. Students should be enlightened on proper ways of rebuffing lecturers. Channels which cases can be reported through should be communicated, such as counselling units and phone numbers that victims can call to report such issues. In a sexual harassment case, the victim is never at fault and universities should not strive to avoid smear campaigns, instead they should call out guilty parties, no matter how bad it looks, so as to serve as a deterrent to others.
Although self control and discipline are key in preventing sexual harassment, other preventive methods may be promoted. One of such method is the promotion of mutual respect between individuals. Staff and students alike should know that although lecturers, departmental heads, professors, etc are authority figures, they are also humans first and no one has the right to harass anyone.
Article written by Ajibade Adebanke
(Content developer at Edufirst)