Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has threatened to dismiss any university lecturer found guilty of sexual harassment. There are widespread reports of staff at tertiary institutions offering students higher marks in exchange for sexual favours.
In the world of higher learning, lecturers wield the power, but some are using their positions to prey on young minds.
A survey conducted by the Female Student Network Trust in 2016 reveals that 74 percent of women students interviewed reported being sexually harassed.
“There are issues of lecturers asking out students and if you say no you are in big trouble.” “Big trouble means either you don’t pass or you have a very bad time at the university,” Joanne Kambalata, a third year student said.
Fear of further victimisation means many students choose not to speak out.
“Students are discouraged to report because they see it disturbs their studies so rather they keep quiet and just watch. We have a female student who attempted to report a sexual harassment issue and it took her seven years to graduate,” Evernice Munando, the Director for Female Student Network Trust said.
In that particular case, the lecturer was merely transferred to another university.
But President Mnangagwa is taking a far stronger stance on the issue.
He has warned any lecturer found guilty of sexual harassment will be fired.
Activists hope the president will stick to his word and that the relevant legislation will be amended.
“We feel it has been trivialised…it’s something which cannot be considered as a problem and hence laws that are in place, including the labour law, do not address sexual harassment. It’s being treated as misconduct and perpetrators like those men in power are getting away with it,” Munando said.
Beyond dismissal, activists want teaching certificates of those found guilt withdrawn, to make sure they never get another opportunity to exercise their predatory instincts.