The death of educationist Lawrence Mukiibi on May 28 robbed the country of a key figure in the education sector. His contribution to privatisation of the education sector in the country through his chain of St Lawrence Schools and St Lawrence University, among other establishments, will gain special place in Uganda’s history books.
However, allegations made after his death such as sexual liaisons between students and teachers, bring to light critical issues that must be addressed in the education sector.
In the past, institutions of higher learning such as Makerere University, featured in the media over reports of lecturers sexually harassing students in exchange for good grades. Some of the affected lecturers were reprimanded by the university management while others faced the law.
However, issues concerning secondary and primary schools have not been given as much attention. The media has reported several cases of teachers and head teachers defiling their charges. But such cases are rarely reported to the police and the accused simply left to go scot free. This despite the fact that defilement presented the highest statistics in last year’s Police Biannual Crime report at 8,954 cases.
Recent allegations about teacher-student relationships should present a perfect opportunity to revisit this issue. In particular, the Ministry of Education should not take this matter lightly. In fact, the ministry should by now have issued a statement in regard not only to St Lawrence schools but also other private schools and investigations into the issue of student-teacher relationships instituted.
Administrators of private schools should be put in the spotlight and stringent policies instituted to monitor them. Measures aimed to curb illicit teacher-student relationships in schools must be issued and seen to be adhered to. The ugly allegations flying around following Mukiibi’s death should be wake-up call to the education sector to clean up its house. No school administration - private or otherwise, should relax. In the same way, parents must always be alert and not leave everything to chance.
On the other hand, students should be empowered to have the ability to ward off and report sexual advances from unscrupulous teachers. Where necessary, the police and school counsellors should be called upon to help.
The time is now for parents to have candid discussions with their children to inquire and understand what they go through at school. Besides, the public should monitor and ensure that sexual relationships between teachers and students that they get to know are not swept under the carpet.
The issue: Teacher-student relationships.
Our view: The time is now for parents to have candid discussions with their children to inquire what they go through at school. The public should also monitor and ensure that sexual relationships between teachers and students are not swept under the carpet.