Probe sexual abuse soberly

Fri, 27 Jan 2017 10:07:20 +0000

The suspension of teachers and a watchman at Kasama Girls Secondary School on account of sexual abuse allegations circulated through social media is a matter of very serious concern.

The reactions, we fear may have been too hasty and motivated by a knee jerk response to the revelation that remain unauthenticated.

The 1.2 percent ratio of students who responded in the affirmative in a questionnaire is statistically insignificant to establish any fact.

There is a real danger that unpopular  workers at the school may be victims of pent up emotions and grudges for other reasons with little or nothing to do with sexual abuse.

The sequence of events and uncanny coincidence between Kasama and Lilayi Police Training School sexual abuse allegations are too close for comfort.

For a start the adage that those who come to equity must do so with clean hands is very relevant in the circumstances presented in both cases.

Secondly the multiplicity of agencies involved in the investigation makes for very hasty and poorly researched outcomes which may be based on emotions rather than fact.

Our position has been consistent. We have maintained a level of scepticism because a student that goes out of bounds and returns to school to give an account of experiences in very graphic terms, in a vocabulary that is above a university graduate evokes cynicism.

In this era of fake news, the use of social media, for the circulation of   these wild allegations is ironic.

The absence of a formal complaint lodged with the relevant investigative authorities to ascertain the genuineness of the commission of the offence is a factor that must weigh very heavily on the minds of those undertaking the investigations.

Be that as it may, we do not imply investigations cannot be instituted in the absence of the formal complaint. What is of particular concern, however, is that the letters disclosing the alleged offences emanate from social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp where anyone can post anything and allow it to go viral.

Understandably, the imaginary victims might not have gathered enough courage to report such cases to relevant authorities either for fear of victimisation or stigmatisation but that does not in itself authenticate the allegations.

It is for this reason that extreme caution ought to be exercised by Ministry of General Education officials as they conduct investigations to ensure objectivity prevails.

We recall when the Lilayi female police recruits alleged sexual abuse reports went viral, information emerged a few days later that a letter with similar content but with minor alterations of the name of the college had been circulating on the internet in other countries.

Supposing this is true, how genuine and serious should such allegations be treated then?

In the case of the Kasama Girls’ saga, a lot of conflicting statements have been issued so far. On one hand, we have been told that since 2008, the school has not reported any death of a pupil as a result of abortion and that the purported 22 girls impregnated last year is not true.

On the other hand, Northern Province Minister Brian Mundubile stated that Ministry of General Education officials distributed questionnaires to the 400 pupils early this week.

“The pupils were responding to the question on whether they knew about sexual abuse by teachers to which five out of the 400 pupils answered ‘Yes’ and listed five teachers as being involved,” Mr Mundubile said.

We think that there is need for neutral institutions such as the Human Rights Commission (HRC), the Civil Society and Non-Governmental Organisations to conduct independent investigations on the alleged sexual abuses at the girls’ school to ensure that the process is devoid of victimisation of the alleged culprits.

Much more importantly, it is vital that the process is fair and transparent for it to yield credible results that shall provide a solution to the problem.


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