By REBECCA KUKU
TEACHERS who have a sexual relationship with their students will be charged criminally and banned from the profession, says Teachers’ Service Commissioner Baran Sori.
He told The National that sexual relationships between teachers and students were not tolerated and were criminal in nature.
He made the statement after a parent reported that his daughter was allegedly abused sexually by her grade eight teacher at a school in Southern Highlands.
The grade eight student (school name withheld), was told to pick up her certificate (document which was not ready at the time of graduation) from the teacher on Dec 27.
She went to the school to see the teacher to pick up her certificate but instead was allegedly abused sexually and raped by the teacher.
The teacher was alleged to have threatened to withhold her certificate if she reported the matter to her relatives. The victim reported the incident to her family. Her father was away when the incident happened.
He has since refused to accept compensation payments offered by the teacher and has reported the incident to Mendi police and the Southern Highlands Education Board.
He called on the provincial education board (PEB) to conduct an investigation, claiming that over the past 10 years teachers at the school had been sexually abusing female students.
“The lack of awareness in rural schools about the seriousness of child sexual abuse by teachers as well as the parents’ lack of knowledge to report such cases to the relevant authorities has made the practice of child sexual abuse a norm,” the girl’s father said.
He said the common trend of defending teachers for fear of losing them to neighbouring communities had also discouraged affected girls and their families from reporting such cases.
“So over the last 10 years, the practice has resulted in married teachers marrying schoolgirls who have not even reached the age of 16,” the victim’s father said.
“Parents and relatives also force their teenage daughters to marry their teachers after they are raped in order to receive bride prize payments.
“And in other cases, victims who realise that they are pregnant seek abortion in fear of shame, stigma and of being beaten up by relatives.”
The victim’s father said that as a parent and a member of the community, he had had enough of watching their daughters’ lives and education end up at the hands of selfish teachers.
“My daughter is just one in many. It is becoming a norm throughout schools in remote areas.
“The provincial education board must look into this and start placing harsher penalties for teachers who take advantage of their positions to sexually abuse students.”
Sori condemned the actions of the teachers and said parents of students who had been abused should report the matter to police for immediate action and also report to TSC so that those teachers could be removed and banned from teaching.
“We will terminate the services of any teacher who is found guilty of abusing their students,” he said.
A police spokesperson confirmed the report, saying the case was common in Southern Highlands, but it was the first time that a parent had actually come forward to file a report with the police.
“We hope that it will not be another case where the family will later accept compensation and drop charges against the teacher,” he said.
“At the moment we are working on arresting the teacher to bring him in for questioning.”
By REBECCA KUKU