The University of Malawi (UNIMA) has no clear policy on sexual abuse and education experts say this is fueling sexual abuse cases on campuses, many of which are not reported.
Education expert Benedicto Kondowe said in an interview that there is no clear policy on sexual harassment at UNIMA which is Malawi’s biggest institution of higher learning.
“In respect of sexual harassment within university I must admit we don’t have clear policy on the matter, what has been happening over the time is that there has been work regulations for staff where these issues are included but the truth of the matter is that we don’t have clear policy and this has created serious gap.
“In terms of sexual harassment rules and laws, generally the penal code criminalizes the sexual harassment.
“There have been studies taken before. In 1994 Isabel Phiri did study that was looking at student and gender based violence within campus, in 2009 Kayuni did the similar study and in 2014 Kanyongolo PhD, all these studies have indicated that there are serious abuses at the campuses and it has also revealed that there are a lot of unreported cases,” he said.
There have been conversations around sexual harassment in colleges in recent months following reported cases involving lecturers and students.
A few weeks ago, a female student at Chancellor was reportedly gang-raped in her boyfriend’s hostel by 8 male students.
In 2018, Pemphero Kafandikhale University of Malawi was failing to source funds for her school fees and wellbeing.
She opted to reserve her college place and she went to Dean of Students office to seek for advice. The Dean agreed that she should reserve a place and asked for her number saying he might help her.
The Dean helped Pemphero secure a monthly assistance of K30,000 from a national Bank manager but the Dean then started demanding sexual favours from the students.
The student this year reported the matter to the college and released screenshots of conversations as evidence.
“I have never slept with the Dean of students and my messages on the screenshots clearly shows that. What I did was just tolerating whatever he had to say in order to gather more evidence and convict him at the hearing. I stand with my truth as well as I stood to protect myself and my fellow girls who were his victims.
“I am being called unpleasant names saying there was something going on with the Dean and that really has affected me to the point that I regretted reporting the matter to the management. I reached a point of running to a moving vehicle just to kill myself because of the pressure I was receiving,” she told Malawi24.
According to reports, there are many cases of sexual abuse involving academic staff which are swept under the carpet and this is enabled by unclear policies against harassment.
But University of Malawi registrar Benedicto Okomaatani Malunga told this reporter that the university has a well-documented handbook on sexual harassment and furiously wondered why this reporter was saying there are no unclear policies.
“UNIMA has clear rules and regulations for both staff and students about sexual harassment. Both parties are well aware of them. I do not understand why you are saying there are unclear policies about sexual harassment who told you that?” he queried.
He, however, did not respond when asked if the rules are shared with students.