When a Girl Student Stands Up and Wins
As legislative solutions are coming into focus in Zambia, factors to reduce the incidence of teacher/student abuse are moving forward.
A 2000 World Health Organization – Geneva report, “World Report on Violence and Health (Chap 6 – Sexual Violence)” states, “Action in schools is vital for reducing sexual and other forms of violence. In many countries a sexual relation between a teacher and a pupil is not a serious disciplinary offence and policies on sexual harassment in schools either do not exist or are not implemented. In recent years, though, some countries have introduced laws prohibiting sexual relations between teachers and pupils. Such measures are important in helping eradicate sexual harassment in schools. At the same time, a wider range of actions is also needed, including changes to teacher training and recruitment and reforms of curricula, so as to transform gender relations in schools.”
With a verdict of guilty, the High Court of Zambia awarded Kalenga and her guardian aunt $13,000+ USD (equal to $45,000,000 in Zambia) for damages.
“I want to ensure that such a situation does not happen to any child, because the emotional scars do not heal,” said Kalenga’s “Auntie” who fought closely by Kalenga’s side in court.
Thankfully, Kalenga was also told after testing by the clinic she did not have HIV/AIDS.
“I feel like a hero for coming out in the open because most girls tend to keep quiet when such things happen to them,” said Kalenga. “I want to urge young girls not to trust any strangers and to report any cases of sexual abuse against them,” she added.
“We Zambians, especially activists, must translate this landmark judgment, with clear illustrations, cartoons and posters, into simple English and the seven official local languages (of Zambia) so that every person who can read or see learns from it,” said Zambian gender activist Sara Longwe, in a recent call to protect girls reproductive and sexual rights.
“Now I am my own ambassador,” said Kalenga, “because now I am a role model. Some girls even come to me for advice. Like the girl from school who came and told me that her uncle had defiled her and asked me what she should do. I advised her to tell a family member or see her pastor at church right away.”
“This judgment (also) protects the girl-child from the sexual abuse that customarily follows enforced child marriages,” added Ugandan attorney, Laura Nyirikindi, soon after learning the outcome of the case. “Women’s NGOs now have a precedent which they can use to lobby for legal and policy reform,” she explained. “Errant staff suspensions (inside the schools) is not enough. More in-depth measures have to be taken, especially preventative ones.”
“I also tell my friends not to trust any strangers. That they should speak out when something of that sort happens,” added Kalenga.
“We value education and as such will not take kindly to any girl being stripped of her right to education and a secured bright future,” said YWCA Director, Ktembu Kaumba. “The teaching profession is a noble one and all bad eggs must be removed from the education sector and exposed. The message we are sending is a zero tolerance one.”
“We have to fight this scourge together because a potential defiler can be anywhere, at school or at home,” added Kalenga with a big smile on her face.
A large question still remains as the Zambian public realizes what this landmark case really means. Will stronger legislation be supported throughout Zambia’s governing committees to help limit teacher-student abuse in the future? Will this case cause parents and guardians of abused children to begin to sue the Ministry of Education itself at increased levels?
The biggest question yet to be answered is: Will Zambia’s Ministry of Education pay for all upcoming defilement cases or will they put measures in place to curb this “vice” inside the education sector before it hits the courts?
Even with a landmark case like this winning in court, Zambia may have much more to go before teacher-student rape cases show a sharp decline.
This story of Cindy by CAMFED shows the great opportunities girls in Zambia can experience in school. Protection for girls is vital to make sure educational programs for girls can go forward without interruption or problems. CAMFED is helping in these areas.
Sally Chiwama, Women News Network – WNN correspondent and gender specialist reports from Mporokoso, Zambia. As part of the Zambia Media Women Association (ZAMWA) Secretariat, Sally has represented ZAMWA in Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa. In July 2008, she had a chance to interview “Kalenga” in person for this story.
Additional editing for this EHHR award-winning story has been made by human rights journalist and Pushcart Prize nominee, Lys Anzia, Director/Editor-at-Large for WNN – Women News Network.
©WNN – Women News Network 2008
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