Sex for higher grades

Sex for higher grades

ROMA – KATLEHO Tlhapi, a fourth-year student at the National University of Lesotho (NUL), was called to the office of one of his lecturers “to collect some papers”.
As soon as he entered the office, the door was shut.
The next minute, the lecturer was seducing him.

“I felt her hands patting my lower parts,” he recounted last week. He said he bolted out.
But he was called in again by the same lecturer on a different date.
She tried to seduce him.
Again, he fled.

He is one of the “lucky ones” to escape such escapades at the institution.
The country’s oldest university is reeling from allegations of lecturers seducing, or even demanding sexual favours from students.
Students that resist are at the risk of falling out of favour with the lecturers.

“I was scared because my friend had failed the past year, (and I was thinking) now this is happening to me,” said Tlhapi, suggesting that his friend was punished for rejecting a lecturer’s advances.
Tlhapi was speaking at a gender dialogue held at the Roma campus last Thursday.
He was one of two students brave enough to publicly share their experiences with an audience that included the university’s acting Pro-Vice Chancellor, Dr Beatrice Ekanjume-llongo.

So serious is the concern that the university has acknowledged the issue and says it is taking measures that include new policies to fight sexual harassment of students.
Tlhapi’s story paints a picture of brazen attempts by lecturers of both sexes to force students into sexual encounters.
“She gave me a hug and it wasn’t the normal hug of wrapping one’s hands in an embrace. I felt her hands patting my lower parts as her hands were going down,” he said, with a sigh. “I felt

uncomfortable and pushed her away.” He said he left the office immediately.
Tlhapi said he found himself at the lecturer’s office for the second time at her invitation.
This time she locked the office after Tlhapi entered and told him that he would not attend lectures that day, he said.

He said the lecturer made sexually arousing moves after locking the office door, spicing them with lurid and sexual comments.
“She tried to give me a hug but this time around I did not allow her to come closer to me. As she approached, I turned to the door and saw that the key was still there. I unlocked and left the room,” he said.

He reported her to one of the university directors. The lecturer was suspended to pave way for investigations but was later absolved for lack of evidence.
There is no statistical data on sexual harassment cases at the university but authorities believe gender-based violence, including sexual harassment, is prevalent at the campus.
A study by researchers from the University of Venda in Thohoyandou, South Africa, found that broadly, female students were more susceptible to sexual harassment than their male counterparts.
In South Africa, 17.3 percent of male respondents and 25.5 percent of female respondents said they had personally experienced unwanted touching, according to the study.

The study revealed that 1.3 percent of males and 2.7 percent of female students admitted that they had been raped.
It said 10.8 percent of male respondents and 10.2 percent of female respondents had been coerced to comply with a sexual relationship on campus, according to the study.
Sexual harassment of students is not just an African problem.

The research found that in the United States, sexual harassment in institutions of higher learning takes place more frequently than imagined by many people.
They cited a study conducted at the Brown University in the United States, which revealed that among 234 female students, there was an incidence rate of six percent attempted rape and 3.8 percent rape cases.

In another study conducted by So-Kum Tang, Critelli, and Porter at the Chinese University of Hong Kong among undergraduate female students, there was 14.9 percent reported cases of attempted rape and 1.4 percent of rape cases. “The extent of this problem is unknown…It is important to determine the prevalence of sexual harassment in every institution so as to develop strategies that will help in prevention and reduction of its occurrence,” the researchers said in their report.

It was observed that intimidation of students into submitting to unwanted sexual advances in return for marks is prevalent across all universities.
Back home, NUL Acting Pro-Vice Chancellor Dr Beatrice Ekanjume-llongo said she was determined to root out the problem.
She said the gender dialogue was held as part of the annual 16 Days Activism against Gender Based Violence campaign – a sign of the institution’s commitment to tackling the problem.

The event also marked the launch of the university’s process of developing an institutional gender policy that would ensure that the university lives up to its mandate.
Dr Ekanjume-llongo said the NUL is mandated to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development and build an inclusive society.

“The current NUL Strategic Plan has identified gender equality as one of the niche areas to be improved through research. However gender equality issues are not directed by any policy provisions, gender curriculum is scattered around faculties without any clear policy guidance,” Dr Ekanjume-llongo said.
Dr Ekanjume-llongo said the university management is fully behind the Gender Action Plan steering committee consisting of representatives from all of the university’s departments.

The committee is tasked with identifying strategies and actions to prioritise gender equality and mainstreaming in all the operations of the university.
Dr Matšeliso Mapetla described gender as a “very emotional aspect of our lives”.
“It’s lived experiences of women. It’s about relationships between men and women. It’s about how society organises itself, which again is responsible sometimes for violence that we see,” Dr Mapetla said.

Dr Mapetla said she has initiated the “Women’s Research Collective”, an on-campus programme to plug the gap on the lack of locally generated knowledge on gender issues.
Dr Mapetla said the gap was because much of the research on the subject was done by visiting scholars, who oft-times misrepresent women in Lesotho.
“They still do and we agree with them that lobola is a price. But if you interrogate that concept within the cultural context of Basotho, you’ll appreciate what it means,” she said.

’Mamakhooa Rapolaki

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