LESS than one third of girls who join secondary school don’t for most of them fall victims to widespread sexual harassment by teachers, a new study has revealed.
The harassment impedes the government efforts to promote and empower the girl child. It is well known that for eons, the girl child has suffered on the hands of a male chauvinistic society that treated women like second class citizens.
The government, with the help of non-governmental organisations, has been striving to give equal opportunities to all people despite their gender orientation.
And, the revelation by the report titled, ‘I had a Dream to Finish School: Barriers to Secondary Education in Tanzania’ produced by Human Rights Watch in Dar es Salaam recently, is unfortunate to say the least.
It states that many girls face sexual exploitation and abuse by bus drivers and adults, who often ask them for sex in exchange for gifts, free rides, or money on their way to and from school.
To make matters worse, the report reveals that some officials do not report cases of sexual abuse to police. Director of Education Management in the President’s Office, Regional Administration and Local Government, Juma Kaponda responded to the report, saying the government always takes stern measures against teachers bent on sexually harassing students.
It is clear that the police and the government have adopted a no nonsense approach to sexual harassment and bringing to book everyone implicated. But, the situation on the ground shows that light is still to shine at the end of a dark tunnel in as far as sexual harassment of students is concerned.
The fact that these cases are shrouded in secrecy with some of them going unreported hinders government efforts to address the problem. Some parents either fuel or are the source of the problem as they withdraw their daughters from school and marry them off at tender ages.
Even worse, some parents or guardians, instead of reporting to police, negotiate and reach agreements with crooks who have sexually abused their children. Sexual harassment has cut short the educational dreams of many girls due to early marriages or forced drop out because of early pregnancies.
Though the government has been in the forefront, tightening screws to curb the setback, there is need for concerted efforts by all stakeholders to protect the girl child. It’s the role of everyone to ensure that girls are protected and their learning environment is not only friendly but also sexual harassment free. Together, we can make our schools free of sexual harassment.