Aminata is 16 years old; she lives at home with her single mother in Darker. Getting an education is the only way she could escape life at the shacks and avoid ending up like her mother, a petty food trader. But her education is now at a price. Aminata has had to sleep with her teachers to earn her grades. At only 16, Aminata already has the appearance of an ‘over used sex worker’ following her exhaustion from multiple sexual activities in the name of education.
Sexual exploitation in African schools is becoming a serious issue and needs to be addressed immediately. Such slang’s as ‘sexually transmitted grades’ commonly heard amongst students nowadays, is an indication of the pervasiveness of the despicable activities in most African schools.
For Aminata, it is a choice of cooperating and getting her grades recorded, or failing and dropping out. ‘Looking back at life in the shacks of the ghetto and the struggle that awaits me on the streets of Darker, I can’t help but sacrifice my dignity for that diploma. I wish that wasn’t the situation,’ she explained.
Plan International’s (PI), an organisation with a global campaign to end violence in schools carried out a research titled: ‘Learn without Fear,’ and discovered stories like that of Aminata. ‘We’ve been aware of the problem for a long time but we’ve had to just go on subjective evidence of violence and its effects. But what our latest research has done is to talk to children, to teachers and to parents and so we’re dealing with evidence and not hearsay.’ The PI Regional Director for West and Central Africa, John Chaloner, said.
‘Our teachers should be there to teach us and not to touch us where we don’t want, and threaten us when we refuse to sleep with them’ a 15 year-old girl from Uganda told PI, ‘I feel like disappearing from the world if a person who is supposed to protect me, instead destroys me.’ The young girl added.
The report discloses frighteningly high levels of violence from teachers towards student who aren’t willing to cooperate with their sexual demands. “Many girls and boys are dropping out of school as a result of sexual abuse and corporal punishment.’ In Uganda, it was found that eight percent of 16 and 17 year-olds had had sex with their teachers, in South Africa, at least one-third of all child rapes are by school staff and a survey of ten villages in Benin, showed that 34 per cent of children confirmed sexual violence in their schools. The report found girls are vulnerable to attacks not only from teachers and other care givers, but also from male students, either at school or on the journey to or from school. PI report claimed that the perverted teachers often justified the sexual exploitation of female students by saying that the girl’s clothes and behaviours were provocative, and that they, the teachers, were far from home and in sexual need.
For some odd reasons, sexual violence is still under-reported. Female students like Aminata need to be able to learn without a price of her dignity and womanhood. The Authorities must be watchful and alert and ensure the safety, protection of the African female student especially from those who are supposed to educate and protect them.