Recently, the Ekiti State government dismissed three secondary teachers for alleged sexual molestation of their students. ’YOMI AYELESO writes about the development and reactions of stakeholders to it.
FOR some time now cases of sexual harassment of students in Nigeria’s ivory towers, popularly known as sex-for-grade have been generating series of reactions across the country. Some of the affected lecturers in the reported cases have been convicted, while others are currently standing trial in various courts.
With the dust raised by the incident yet to clear, some secondary schools in Ekiti State became the focus of attention as three teachers were fingered as suspects after petitions from an unnamed human rights activist, following series of complaints by parents.
In a meeting with the executive members of the Ekiti State chapter of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Wale Fapohunda, was the first to express concern about the frequency of sexual harassment in secondary schools across the state.
He also revealed that preliminary investigations by his office showed that some of the members of the NUT were allegedly molesting students in at least three secondary schools in the state.
Fapohunda, who stated that the sex offenders register created by his ministry has created the awareness among the residents of the state, noted that the policy has resulted in an increase in complaints of sexual violence to the police.
He further said that the increasing number of allegations of rape incidents in schools caused his office to formally advise the Ekiti State police command on the need for a thorough investigation of the development.
The Attorney General then noted that by the provisions of the laws of the state, no child under the age of 18 could give consent for any sexual activity; subsequently, according to him, “having sex with an under-18 female child is rape.”
Fapohunda also decried the politicisation of the issue, saying that he had been advised to “tread carefully on the matter and possibly look the other way to avoid confrontation with teachers because his party would need them for possible votes in the future.
“I find such reasoning unacceptable and deeply offensive. This is not about APC or PDP; it is simply despicable that anyone would play politics with the lives of our daughters. If our insistence that our daughters should not be raped would make us lose teachers’ votes, then let it be so.
“Majority of teachers in the state are hard-working; many of them are working diligently under difficult conditions to ensure that their students excel. It is therefore important that the NUT take immediate and urgent action to identify the very few who are bringing the name of the union into disrepute,” he said.
Upon completion of investigation, the police subsequently arraigned the three teachers before an Ado-Ekiti chief magistrates court on a one-count charge of rape.
During the arraignment, the prosecutor, Inspector Johnson Okunade, told the court that the defendants committed the offence sometime in the month of December 2019 in Ado-Ekiti.
He alleged that the defendants who are teachers of All Souls Grammar School in Ado-Ekiti and Osi Community High School, Osi Ekiti, raped their students who were agedv15, 16 and 17 years.
Okunade said the offence contravened section 2(2) of the Ekiti State Gender-Based Violence Law 2019.The prosecutor asked the court for adjournment to enable him to forward the case files to the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) for legal advice.
The chief magistrate, Mr Adesoji Adegboye, ordered that the defendants should be kept in police custody, pending the issuance of legal advice from the DPP.
Announcing the dismissal of the teachers on behalf of the government, the chairman of the state Teaching Service Commission, Mr. Babatunde Abegunde, stated that the act of the teachers amounted to gross misconduct and «unbecoming of those entrusted with molding the destiny of younger ones.”
He explained that the penalty meted out to them was in line with the Public Service Rules and the State Teachers’ Manual.
Abegunde noted that the commission followed the due process as laid down by extant rules to avoid miscarriage of justice in arriving at its decision, saying that the erring teachers were first queried and interrogated at the school level before repeating the process at the commission.
On his part, the state’s Solicitor-General, Mr. L. B. Ojo, who is a member of the Board of Teaching Service Commission commended the management for giving the officers fair hearing and ensuring quick dispensation of justice.
The development has stirred up reactions among stakeholders who believebthe conduct of the teachers was condemnable and disparaging. They advised government to step up its mechanism across schools towards preventing future occurrence.
We recall that the state governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, had in October 2019 signed into law the state Gender-Based Violence law which prohibits any form of gender violence, rape and sex with any child under the age of 18 years.
The state chairman of the NUT, Comrade Odugbesan expressed displeasure at the conduct of the teachers who should be career builders. He noted that the union is a disciplined body that would not condone acts of child molestation and sexual harassment among its members.
He said, «It is unfortunate that we have this situation on our hands involving some of our members. We are not happy with it as a union and we are condemning it in totality. We will step up our awareness among members on the need to eschew all acts capable of bringing the name of the union and of course the state into disrepute.»
A 14-year old pupil in one of the affected schools who gave his name simply as Segun said the action of their teachers was surprising. He regretted that the teachers that pupils took as their parents would turn around to be sexually assaulting female students.
“When we heard about it in the school, everybody was so surprised because we did not expect it from our teachers. All of us were so close to these teachers in question because they were so nice to us.
“We always move close to them because we see them as our fathers who can help us focus on our lives. For them to be doing it to our girls is really bad and should be condemned by everybody,» he said.
Mrs Bimbola Adekunle, a parent, called on the government to ensure that proper punishment in accordance with the law is meted to the suspects to serve as a deterrent to other teachers.
She posited that the state government must do everything possible to restore people›s confidence in public schools in the state by ensuring that those she described as bad eggs don›t find their way into the teaching profession.
According to her, «In fact, this is new in our secondary schools because we don›t expect it, not even from the teachers who we expect to serve as role models to our children in the schools.
“But we appreciate the government for the quick intervention and their subsequent sack from the service. I want to believe we still have many of them in the schools and I will urge government to pursue the case to a logical conclusion with the affected individuals punished accordingly. I believe others who have that same intention will bury it knowing full well they will be dismissed, arrested and prosecuted.
“I want to also say this that we must bring sanity back to our public schools so as to further help the system. Everybody has been complaining that parents no longer take their wards to public schools. Is this sexual molestation what we should be expecting for our girls?”
A psychologist at the Ekiti State University (EKSU) Ado-Ekiti, Professor Lanre Adebayo, while condemning the act of the three teachers, said they might be suffering from their inability to have their love advances accepted by more mature ladies in the society.
He noted that the social media has contributed in no small measure to moral decadence in schools, adding that most pupils have access to pornographic materials through the internet.
Adebayo stressed that the development would have negative effect on the education sector, particularly the public schools, arguing that standard and expected procedure in learning would be compromised when teachers sexually assault their pupils.
He said, “In the first place, when a teacher sleeps with his students, it can best be described as an act of indiscipline which should not be condoned. These teachers are like pastors who the society expects a lot from, especially in helping to serve as role models to the little children.
“Look at the situation we have now; one of those things that might be responsible for that unfortunate act is that most of these children have been exposed to many things that relate to sex, especially with the advent of social media. Besides, some of them are at the stage of puberty with their hormones functioning. They might want to try sex. It is worse doing it with a teacher.
“The teachers in the situation most times are suffering from pervert skills. They may not have the ability to woo ladies in the society. Then they turn to those directly under them as students whom they think they have control over. Even if teachers are being enticed, it is expected that they resist all forms of temptation and control their libido.
“We must also say that sexual assault of students by their teachers will have adverse effect on the system. This is dangerous. The teachers will lose control of the class; perhaps the assessment procedure will be compromised which I think is not the best for our education system. We are not likely to have brilliant and upright children if the system being used to train is compromised. It will affect the students and the system.”