Lecturers, students' sexual relations rise

THE Higher and Tertiary Education ministry says it is having sleepless nights in finding a solution to sexual relations between lecturers and students, adding that it is now mooting to table a sexual harassment policy in Parliament.
Higher and Tertiary Education deputy minister Godfrey Gandawa made the remarks during question and answer session in Parliament last week.

“I hear what the honourable member has said with regards to abuse of female students who are in our tertiary institutions, be it polytechnics, universities or teachers’ colleges, especially with regards to male lecturers, who she alleges want sexual favours from students so that they award them higher marks,” Gandawa said.

“ . . . We have gone across all our 46 institutions and this issue was very pertinent,” Gandawa said.

“It came out everywhere where we addressed students and we are seized with the matter. Very soon, we are going to bring that sexual harassment policy to this august House.”

“As a ministry, we do not condone such kind of behaviour and should we get to know the lecturers who are involved in that, they will be disciplined, but suffice to say that we actually have started to implement a sexual abuse and harassment policy in all our tertiary institutions, so that we curb the practice.”

Gandawa said sexual harassment in tertiary institutions was difficult to curb as most of the students are above 18 and sometimes consent.

“We are somehow restricted as per the policy that we are going to put up so that we guard against the abuse if these people are not in a relationship…we are actually now in the process of realigning all our university Acts to the Constitution and this matter has been brought up in all the consultations that we have done.”

Gandawa’s remarks come as student body Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu) has blamed government ministers and politicians, saying they are reluctant to lobby better living conditions for tertiary students because they are the main drivers of sexual harassment in tertiary institutions.

“Government has an obligation to ensure that at least they provide the bare minimum for students,” Zinasu spokesperson Zivai Mhetu said.

“Unfortunately, ministers and politicians are taking advantage of a system they do not want to capacitate. That is why we are seeing them taking advantage of vulnerable students.”

The students felt the influx of sexual abuse at the country’s universities was a direct product of a collapsing economy.
Accommodation at tertiary institutions is limited, resulting in most students seeking exorbitant alternative lodgings thereby opening them up to exploitation.

“Most of these cases are arising because of poverty,” Mhetu said.

While parents have been begging their children to bear with them and understand the hardships, some students have crumbled under pressure and are now engaging in prostitution in order to make ends meet.

Students canvassed by the Weekend Post disclosed that sex had become the medium of exchange for one to get a good pass mark, a decent meal, free rides to school and free accommodation.

Alarmingly, male students admitted engaging in homosexuality in exchange for money.

Mhetu said if government subsidised students’ fees some of these social ills would be eradicated. —Farayi Machamire

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