TIME’S UP!…no playground for pedophile teachers

Esther A. Armah

Teachers. Every day thousands and thousands of teachers in Ghana walk into classrooms where they hold young minds in their hands to nurture, develop and build. Some teachers in Ghana have turned playgrounds into pedophile hunting grounds, They use their position, authority, power to sexually harass, extort sex for grades or school fees and sexually abuse mostly girls but also boys.

Ejisuman Senior High School has been the focus of banner headlines due to an ongoing investigation of sexual abuse and harassment allegations by students against their teachers. The probe into these allegations began in January. The investigation is led by the school’s headmistress and an assistant headmaster. The investigation is expected to conclude shortly.

Ghana National Assocation of Teachers has been reported as claiming that the Ejisuman allegations are being made as a ploy to defame teachers. For GNAT to imply that is a national disgrace. Process matters. Such comments prejudice the outcome of an ongoing investigation. Teachers who sexually harass and abuse students can hide in plain sight if the association representing them prejudices the outcome of a formal investigation by rubbishing the students’ allegations.

What is required is for schools to create a line of reporting so students can safely report an allegation and receive a thorough investigation without intimidation. Every school must ensure teachers are not using their position and power to sexually harass students. The Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) has a vital role to play here. As does The Ghana Education Service. The latter has a specific code that condemns teachers’ sexually harassing or in any way engaging sexually with students. Inaction by the GES to adequately sanction those found culpable is a major part of the issue, as is offering such teachers new playgrounds to practice their pain in children’s lives by moving them to a new position.

Ejisuman is the latest in a growing line of stories of sexual harassment. It emerges shortly after a leaked viral video of a principal caught ‘having sex’ with a student.

Such stories ignite heated discussion, anger, condemnation, accusation and outrage. They are too often followed by silence.

There is a pattern here.

In December 2017, headlines appeared of students in the Assin area alleging their teachers were sexually harassing them for unpaid school fees and extorting students for sex in exchange of grades. The students came from Assin Manso SHS, Nyankomasi SHS, Obiri Yeboah SHS, Assin State College, and Assin North Community Day School. They claim the boarders are particular victims at end of term exams and over lack of money for necessities. The Central Region also had a rising number of teenage pregnancies. In December 2017, the Central Regional Director of the Department of Gender, Mrs. Thywill Eyra Kpe said of the data collected from 5,112 adolescent girls regarding who was responsible for their pregnancies, 301 were primary and secondary school teachers.

There have been other findings based on earlier research.

In June 2009, Plan Ghana – as part of Plan International – called for action on teachers impregnating girls in schools. A total of 304 children in the primary, junior high and senior high schools in three districts – Awutu-Senya, Efutu and Upper Manya Krobo – were interviewed. That study revealed child sexual abuse was prevalent in the areas where the study was conducted. It found about 14% of school children – mostly 14 and 15 year olds – had been sexually abused. Teachers were found to be one of the largest perpetrator groups.

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Statistics illustrating the numbers of teachers sexually abusing and harassing their students are on the rise. Such numbers should disturb everyone in Ghana who cares about Education. This is too often treated as an issue about girls. It is not. Education is a collective issue. It is a national, political and familial issue. It requires collective attention, engagement and resolution.

It is time Ghana becomes a silence breaker and stops this cancer spreading throughout classrooms.

On March 1st The Coalition Against Sexual Abuse (CASA) launches a campaign issuing a nationwide call to action against those teachers who sexually abuse or harass students. The campaign is called ‘Stop Sex Abuse in Schools!’. Its message: schools will no longer be these teachers’ personal pedophile playground.

The campaign calls on girls and boys; women and men to stand together and break the spiral of silence when it comes to the disturbing number of cases of sex abuse in school.

So often the lens has been on the conduct of girls and their parents – their behaviour. CASA’s campaign focuses squarely on the conduct of teachers. It does not seek to malign or vilify a profession; it targets those teachers engaging in deviant, unprofessional and criminal behaviour that sullies an entire profession.

The campaign celebrates the thousands and thousands of teachers whose work changes lives, whose dedication, diligence and expertise are responsible for guiding children through education and ensuring they emerge with knowledge. There are indeed issues regarding quality of education in Ghana, but this campaign recognizes the dedication of the majority of teachers.

Education is a precious thing.

It is necessary for a nation to progress. It belongs to all of us. Imagine that students – and predominantly girls – are stressed worrying if they have to negotiate teachers’ demands for sex instead of the usual teenage worries of maths tests, friends and their futures.

CASA’s campaign brings together young women and young men, girls and boys, a mix of generations to collectively raise their voices and target teachers whose behaviour jeopardizes children’s education.

This is a challenging and delicate issue.

Right now, silence is its most potent weapon. Retribution, intimidation, victimization are the weapons being used to silence students who find the courage to stand and speak. Shame is another weapon. Shame triggers silence. Silence protects the violence. The victimization of those students who demand action, seek safety and call out this criminal behaviour is beyond appalling. Those teachers who weaponize their authority in pursuit of their deviant sexual pleasure must be stopped. They should be removed from the profession.

The Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) has a vital role to play here. As does The Ghana Education Service. The latter has a specific code that condemns teachers’ sexually harassing or in any way engaging sexually with students.

What kind of information sharing is there regarding these pedophile teachers? How does GES, GNAT and the Ministry for Gender, Children and Social Protection ensure other schools do not hire somebody fired for getting a girl pregnant, sexually harassing students or extorting sex for grades or unpaid school fees?

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Education is part of this government’s flagship policy. Gender is part of this government’s flagship policy. This issue combines both – remembering that gender is the construct of boys and girls. And it is those influences and societal elements that teach what it means to become a girl or a boy; a woman or a man.

What does society teach boys about abuse of power when male teachers become predators and their predatory behaviour is sanctioned by other teachers, silenced by those who could change it and sanctified by demonizing the girls who report it? What does it teach girls about using your voice to speak out in defence of your right to an education free of sexual harassment if you face intimidation, retribution and victimization?

So, this campaign is crucial at this moment.

Young women and young men, girls and boys, fathers and mothers, president, pastors, politicians and engaged citizens; all who care about education must join in pursuit of safe classrooms for every single child.

If classroom are not safe for all children, they are not safe for any children.

For those teachers who abuse their position, sexually harass and abuse their students, extort sex for grades or schools fees and then use their power to punish or silence those who speak up, the CASA nationwide campaign has two words.

TIME’S UP!

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Coalition Against Sexual Abuse (CASA) campaign STOP SEX ABUSE in SCHOOLS! is in partnership with ‘Let’s Talk Consent, ‘OdodowGH’ and EAA Media Productions. CASA seeks to engage additional organizations for partnership and participation. The hash tags across social media for this campaign are:- #SilenceBreakersGH and #TimesUpGH. For more info contact casaforjustice@gmail.com.

The Coalition Against Sexual Abuse (CASA) is an action and advocacy group of concerned citizens of Ghana committed to ending sexual abuse, sexual violence and sexual harassment in the country. CASA’s focus is impactful campaigns, citizen engagement, media and policy in this work. CASA works to educate Ghanaians about sexual abuse; to advocate for victims; to push for sensible legislation and enforcement against perpetrators; to engage the media in reform, language and their power regarding sexual abuse. CASA collaborates with other groups and individuals committed to ending sexual abuse.

 

CASA members:-

Eugenia Tachie-Menson
Richard Anim
Sara Asafu-Adjaye
Marcia Ashong
Nana Awere Damoah
Nana Akwasi Awuah
Mawuli Dake
Farida Bedwei
Nana Yaa Ofori Atta
Ama Opoku Agyeman
Elsie Dickson
Amazing Grace Danso
Yemisi Parker-Osei
Esther Armah
Elizabeth Olympio
Prof. Eric Wilson
Nana Ama Adom-Boakye
Abla Dzifa Gomashie
Kathleen Addy
The Ark Foundation
SCORP-FGMSA (Standing Committee On Human Rights and Peace – Federation of Ghana Medical Students)                                                                                          PepperDem Ministries

Follow CASA on Facebook:- https://m.facebook.com/GHCASA/

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