An assessment of the prevalence and extent of sexual harassment of girls by boys at chamboli and mindolo high schools in Kitwe from 2006-2008
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The Ministry of Education has shown commitment to ensure that female pupils get the same equal and quality education as their male counterparts in high schools since the 1990s. Unfortunately studies have shown that the performance of girls in these institutions is below that of boys at both grades 9 and 12 national examinations. Recent studies by Kelly (1999) and Kasonde-Ngandu (2003) have cited rampant peer sexual harassment of girls as a factor creating a hostile learning environment for girls and consequently resulting in poor performance. This study therefore sought to assess the prevalence and extent of sexual harassment as well as control measures and their effectiveness. Specific objectives were: to assess the extent of peer harassment in high schools; assess the relationship between group behaviour (due to peer pressure) and the prevalence of sexual harassment; investigate measures put in place by the schools to control peer sexual harassment and their effectiveness; establish the actions taken by the schools against perpetrators of sexual harassment.My study sites are Mindolo and Chamboli high schools in Kitwe. The study employed cross section survey design to collect data at one point in time. Data was collected using semi-structured interview guide, focus group discussion guide and self administered questionnaires. Random stratified sampling was used to choose participants from the population of 1340. A total of 102 girls, 20 boys and 16 teachers and administrators participated from the two schools. The District co-ordinator and the District Education Board Secretary also participated, bringing the total number of the sample to 138. Questionnaires were distributed to the girls, the teachers and administrators. 2 focus group discussions were conducted at each school one for girls and another for boys.In-depth interviews were conducted with administrators, grade teachers, school counsellors and pupils. Both qualitative and quantitative data was collected. The findings indicated that the prevalence rate to 8 counts of sexual harassment at school A was 90% and school B was 96%, giving us and average of 93%. Girls at both schools had experienced more harassment from groups of boys than individuals. In spite of the high prevalence rate only 35% of the girls perceived their school to have a lot of sexual harassment while another 35% know. Further findings revealed that 68% of the girls described their school atmosphere as welcoming and 32% said it was hostile. 47% said they experienced sexual harassment in class, 22% a few metres from the school fence while the rest (23%) mentioned corridors and school hall. Girls are not safe either in or outside their classrooms. They argued that this had a negative impact on their academic performance. The study also established that pupils do not feel free to report sexual harassment to teachers and the few who reported did not get good responses. 52% confide in their friends while 39% tell anyone. Some of the reasons for not reporting were fear of retaliation, embarrassment, not knowing where to report and they were put off by people in charge. The findings also revealed that there are very few control measures in place and they are not effective due to lack of a sexual harassment policy. Counselling and sensitization of pupils has been neglected by both the guidance and counselling department and grade teachers. The school rules do not cover sexual harassment comprehensively; as a result most culprits have gone unpunished. From the findings it was recommended that the district in conjunction with high schools develop a sexual harassment policy. The district co-ordinator should ensure that there is gender balancing between school counsellors, ensure training of officers, reduce their work load, and give them attractive allowances. He/she must also implement better control measures and closely monitor the implementation process.