TEACHING is a noble profession and society places a great deal of trust in those who dedicate their lives to teaching children. Unfortunately, a small percentage of those educators use their position of power to sexually exploit their students.
While it is assumed that men are often responsible for this type of behavior, in recent years, a number of high-profile cases of female educator sexual misconduct have been covered by the media.
While school teachers are part of the major tools in moulding the nation’s future leaders, the activities of some, especially those sexually molesting the students under their tutelage are increasing and worrisome.
“Teacher sexual misconduct” is a term used to describe “behavior by a teacher that is directed at a student and intended to sexually arouse or titillate the teacher or the student/pupil as the case may be.
The word “teacher” not only includes classroom teachers but also coaches, counselors, administrators, tutors, and aides. This misconduct pertains to any physical, verbal, or visual (such as showing pornography) sexual behavior between teacher and student.
Last year, I went to a town in Awka North, around August. I visited a primary school there to conduct some kind of interview on the teachers on a certain education-based issue.
As I was in the headmistress’s office, trying to get her approval to conduct the interview, suddenly, a mother barged into the same office with her little daughter on her heels and started shouting on top of her voice, demanding to see a certain male teacher. The headmistress tried to calm her down all to no avail until she sent for the teacher in question.
When the teacher came in, the woman pounced on him, demanding to know what he was looking for in her daughter’s private part. As astonished as everyone was, we tried to rescue the teacher from the grip of the angry mother, and at the same time tried as much as possible to calm her down, to get her to narrate the ordeal.
On interrogation, the woman said “this morning, I decided to bathe my little daughter by myself; since it had been a while I bathed her by myself. As I was about washing her private part, she screamed aloud, saying “Mummy, it’s paining me. Then I wondered what could possibly make her feel such pain around her private part. So, I tried to find out what the problem was. Then, I asked her, “did you touch your private part? She said no. “Did you use a sharp object on yourself?
She said no. Then, I asked again, “did anyone touch your private part? She kept mute, and then I knew I have gotten her. On further enquiry from her, she said “every time, after school hours, uncle (name withheld) will ask me to wait that he will take me home. Then, after all the pupils in our class had gone, he will remove my pants and start touching my private part”.
And then I asked, why haven’t you told me or anyone about this? She said, “uncle said I should not tell anyone, if I do, he will beat me”. After the woman had narrated everything, the obviously shocked headmistress pleaded with her to exercise patience and leave the school management to see to it.
Even though I followed that case up, later found out that the offending teacher was sacked, others warned against such act, the family of the abused girl apologized to, I still asked myself; does this really solve the problem of teachers preying on their students? Isn’t this a case of a dog eating the bone hanged on its neck?
Some days after this encounter, I went to a friend’s house, and while I was narrating this ordeal to her, she seemed not too surprised, as though it is a normal occurrence. Then, she started narrating a similar, if not more horrible incidence that happened in a school within our neighbourhood.
In her own story, a 34-year-old female teacher was caught forcing a 14-year-old student (a boy) to have carnal knowledge of her in her room, at the teachers’ quarters within the school premises. In my shock, I asked, do we also have female paedophiles?
Reacting to this issue, Mrs Nwadiuba, a retired primary school teacher said “teachers abusing students in both primary and secondary schools has become a trend these days. During my active years in school, there were many cases of teachers abusing students and in most cases; the teachers involved are most times high achievers in their profession.
They may have won awards highlighting their outstanding teaching abilities and are frequently well-liked by both pupils and parents. The teachers may use this positive standing to become close to students (and their families) thereby increasing their ability to surreptitiously engage in sexual relationships with the children.
These traits make the revelation of their aberrant behavior all the more shocking to most people, and in most cases, allegations may be initially overlooked on the basis of the teachers’ reputations. In addition, these teachers also have the potential to serially reoffend when they move to another location if they are relieved of their present teaching positions”.
“Therefore, an effective school system requires clear policies and strict laws that ensure children a safe and secure school environment without sexual assault and harassment by teachers and older classmates. The policies must be well known and accepted by everyone, including school children, and effectively enforced by the school authority and PTA”.
Also contributing, Mrs Ifeanyichukwu Ijeoma, said, “most times, when our kids are abused, for some reasons, they do not want to talk about it. And most times when they confide in their parents, most parents choose to keep it secret, saying they don’t want to dent the image of their kids. But I tell you, the key to addressing this issue of teachers abusing their students is breaking the silence at all levels, among girls, teachers, school heads, parents and education ministry officials.
Girls can also be taught to support each other and act as a group, refuse to see a teacher alone, move around the school and walk home together with other girls, report cases as a group. Make clear to the teachers that they are aware of the code of conduct of teacher behavior and that misconduct is a punishable offence.
In all, it is very important that parents start early to give their children basic sex education that will guide them at all times. Create a good communication platform between you and your children by relating with your child in such a way that when the unusual happens, he/she will be able to confide in you.
And when they do confide in you as a parent, try not to keep it to yourself, thinking you are doing the child any good. And do not take those little complaints from your child about his/her teachers or older schoolmates for granted.
Investigate the complaints and act properly in a way not to raise some sort of false alarm. For most parents that hire private teachers for their children, always monitor their activities to make sure that they are always on track.
Most importantly investigate any suspicious moves by your child or their teachers. Lastly, it is important that parents always pray with their children, handing them over to God always, so that when you are not there to protect your children, God will be there for them”.