A study of sexual abuse of school girls by male teachers in four secondary schools in Zambia in the period 2000-2003

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Shakafuswa, John
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Silence and secrecy shroud the pervasive incidence of harassment and sexual abuse of schoolgirls by male teachers in many Zambian schools. Instead of schools providing a safe and conducive learning environment, schoolgirls have suffered various forms of sexual abuse at the hands of predatory male teachers. These impressionable female students, some below 16, the legal age of consent in Zambia, have been subjected to various forms of sexual abuse at a time when they have very little knowledge of their bodies and of the implications of sexual intercourse.The main thrust of this study was to gain an insight into the actual nature of abuses female pupils are subjected to by their male teachers and to examine the protective measures taken by schools and the government in this regard. This study further sought to establish the fact that there are cases of teacher-perpetrated defilement of schoolgirls younger than 16, and that these cases together with those of other forms of sexual abuse, though known by authorities, are mainly unreported and hence go unpunished. It was also the objective of this study to see whether colleges adequately prepared would-be teachers for their responsibilities in schools by sensitizing them with essential knowledge of appropriate gender relations with female students. The study was conducted between July and November 2004, covering four schools: one single-sex and one co-educational secondary school in Lusaka Province and one singlesex and one co-educational secondary in Western Province for the period 2000-2003. Of the 400 self-administered questionnaires, only 309 of which were answered. A total of 13 male and 10 female teachers were interviewed. The study also undertook 8 focus group discussions, 2 per school, involving 65 Grade 9 and Grade 12 pupils. 12 detailed case studies were also conducted.The study established that teacher-perpetrated sexual abuse of schoolgirls was common in the schools studied and that cases of teacher-perpetrated sexual abuse of students mainly go unreported because of lack of support structures and victim-friendly environments that foster reporting. And even when these cases are reported, the process of disposing of them is protracted and ineffective both as a punitive and deterrent measure against the perpetrator and would-be abusers.The study further revealed that schoolgirls who turn had down teacher's proposals and sexual demands were, among other things, ignored in class, and received harsh comments and unfair punishment, including poor grading or marking of tests and class exercises. Although corporal punishment is illegal, some girls reported being caned or slapped by teachers whose love proposals they had turned down. The teachers who were interviewed indicated that the topic of teacher-pupil relations was tackled at teachers' training colleges, but only one of them said she had seen documents that related to teachers' professional conduct. In the period under study, a total of eight male teachers were dismissed from the teaching service for sexual misconduct with students: three from Lusaka, two from Eastern Province, two from Western Province and one from Central Province. During the same period in the schools under study, the actions taken by school authorities and the Teaching Service Commission against male teachers for sexually inappropriate behaviour towards pupils included one dismissal, two suspensions and two transfers.Some head teachers merely called the perpetrators and reprimanded them.
Sex crimes--Zambia , Sexual abuse victims , Sexual harassment in education--Zambia , Girls--Crimes against--Zambia