Taming menace of sexual abuse in schools
There are claims that sexual abuse is on the rise in Nigeria. And these abuses also commonly happen in schools. Interestingly, these claims are supported with statistics. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in its report explained that one in four girls and one in 10 boys in Nigeria had experienced sexual violence before the age of 18. In addition, six out of 10 children in Nigeria experience emotional, physical or sexual abuse before the age of 18, with many experiencing physical violence.
Similarly, a survey by a non-governmental organisation, Positive Action for Treatment Access, indicated that over 31 per cent of girls in Nigeria reported that their first sexual encounter was rape or forced sex.
The media is awash with sordid tales of rape, abuse and harassment of pupils in both primary and secondary schools. One of the most popular cases was that of 11-year-old boy, allegedly molested by fellow students at Deeper Life High School, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
The centre where the boy was taken for medical examination said it had treated 10 sexually abused boys in the last three years.
Two years ago, a teacher at the FCT School for the Blind, Abuja, was suspended indefinitely for habitually raping two visually impaired students. Reports said the teacher drugged the students and lure them to a hotel before perpetuating the dastardly act.
Also, in February last year, Ekiti State Government dismissed three public secondary school teachers for sexually harassing their female students. The State Teaching Service Commission (TESCOM) said the board dismissed the erring teachers for sexual molestation and bringing the state into disrepute.
Earlier, Rivers State Senior Secondary Schools Board also suspended the principal of Comprehensive Secondary School, Ngo, for having canal knowledge of a 17-year-old female student of the school.
A group, Cece Yara Foundation, in one of its reports, said in a quarter, the group received 1,437 calls from their child helpline, which culminated in 1,298 cases of abuse, with child abuse most prevalent. “Till date, 54 children have accessed justice through the foundation’s forensic interview model with more referrals from law enforcement agencies. The legal team has facilitated arrest of 136 suspects and filed 72 cases in court with two ending up in conviction.”
Ekiti State Attorney General and Commissioner for justice, Olawale Fapohunda, had decried the high prevalence of sexual offences in the state. Fapohunda said of the 273 criminal cases filed in Ekiti State between January 2019 and March 2021, 59 were sexually related offences, which cover 21 per cent of the total cases filed as against 12 per cent of same between 2016 and 2018. He suggested urgent need to fast-track prosecution of sexual offenders.
Worried by the alarming rate of abuse, molestation, harassment and defilement of pupils, government has vowed to prosecute teachers involved and get their unions to ensure they do not condone or abet these crimes. Currently, Fapohunda said the state government was investigating over 45 of such cases.
In Ogun State, a private secondary school teacher, Mathew Adebayo, was arrested on September 2020 by men of the Ogun State Police Command for forcefully having unlawful carnal knowledge of a 15-year-old student of the school.
The spokesman of the command, Abimbola Oyeyemi, said the teacher was arrested following a report that he raped her repeatedly.
Similarly, in Katsina State, the state police command arraigned Hamisu Galadima, an alleged randy primary school teacher, before a senior magistrate court for having carnal knowledge of teenage girls in Faskari council of the state. The police prosecutor, ASP Hashimu Musa, said the suspect was picked up following complaints by victims’ parents.
But the situation is not limited to basic and secondary schools alone, Recently in Bayelsa State, the first female first-class law graduate of Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, Bayelsa State, Ebizi Eradiri, claimed that some randy lecturers almost scuttled her ambition of making first class.
Eradiri, who repeated the same first-class feat at the Nigerian Law School, during a homecoming reception, said the lowest grade she had during her university days was a ‘C’, which was awarded to her by a lecturer who insisted on having sexual intercourse with her.
Also, in March this year, a lecturer in the Department of Business Management at the Covenant University, Ota, Dr Stephen Ukenna, was apprehended by the police in Ogun State, for forcefully having carnal knowledge of a 17-year old student of the school.
The 41-year-old lecturer was arrested following complaints by parents of the victim that their daughter was molested by one of her lecturers in his office.
Recently, the University of Lagos (UNILAG) dismissed two of its lecturers caught on tape, sexually molesting an undercover reporter who posed as 17-year-old admission seeker. Boniface Igbeneghu and Samuel Omoniyi Oladipo were exposed in the BBC Investigative Series, Africa Eye.
Speaking on what schools should do to protect students from sexual predators, Alumni Director, Grace School, Adesope Edun, said schools should conduct due diligence on teachers before employing them, so that if they have a history of being sexual offenders, they won’t be employed.
“School administrators must make sure that they keep an open-door policy to be able to listen to children should they have a teacher to report for behaving inappropriately to them,” he said.
To encourage students to speak out about abuse and sexual harassment, Edun said students must be made to understand that they should speak out when touched inappropriately.
“Students must be encouraged at all times to speak out once they notice such among their classmates. They should also be educated about their rights to learn in an environment free from sexual abuse and harassment and where such rights are infringed upon, schools must ensure that there are channels for students to air their grievances,” he said.
National Coordinator, Education Rights Campaign (ERC) Taiwo Soweto, said there should be a constituted body or control commission comprising elected students representatives and staff unions, where victims could report such abuses without fear of victimisation.
But the Dean, School of Transport, Lagos State University, Prof. Samuel Odewumi, said the best way to guarantee protection for students is to ensure that those apprehended are dealt with timely and firmly. He said once the randy folks become aware that they cannot get away with such atrocities, especially having seen the scapegoats, they would be deterred.
He said: “To encourage students to speak, there must be a reasonable assurance that they will get justice. This can be assured if there is a massive campaign on how to get and preserve evidence. Female students must be taught how to use their phone to collect watertight evidence. They should know how to record randy lecturer’s threats and intimidation and possibly take covert video evidence when they are cornered in a trap set up.
“In the extreme case of rape, they should be told not to rush to take their bath, which most of them will instinctively want to do. The semen evidence must be preserved by approaching the nearest hospital, police station or institution’s health centre. Once the DNA material is preserved, justice is firmly assured. Most of the cases where the survivors get justice are where evidence is preserved.”
An education consultant, Dr. Adewale Adeniyi, said indecent dressing encourage randy teachers to assault students. He said there are teachers that cannot suppress their carnal desires, thereby falling to their willful desires. He also cited ignorance on the part of teachers, saying some of them fail to grasp the implication of engaging in sexual abuse as they assume they will go scot-free without attracting any punishment.
He advised students to report randy teachers bent on sexually harassing them to appropriate quarters, while advocating capital punishment for randy teachers. He equally called on parents to educate their female children on how to dress decently and urged teachers to do same for students.