What you need to know:
- We should remind victims and other children that school is truly a sanctuary of hope and growth not a place they ought to fear.
In the heart of East Africa, where education should be a beacon of hope, a dark reality persists. Our children are defiled by the very people who are expected to mentor, inspire, motivate, and develop their character and values.
The 2022 Uganda Police Force Annual Crime Report revealed that a total of 12,580 cases of defilement were reported, similarly to the statistics compiled by Criminal Investigations Directorate –CID, that show 13,441 girls were defiled a year ago. This translates to 36 girls being defiled every day.
However, this only includes the number of reported cases though for each number, there is a young life forever altered, innocence lost and dreams shattered.
Behind the stark statistics lie the harrowing stories of children. For instance, a school director of Kings Palace Primary School in Luweero District was arrested over defiling six primary seven candidates.
He was also accused of procuring an abortion for one of the pupils, so many questions come to mind. What if they are infected? What if one died during the procedure?
How do you expect these poor pupils to concentrate while writing their exams? Let us not forget the psychological trauma that will possibly lead to post traumatic stress disorder and perhaps the risk of engaging in self-harm.
On August 11, 2023, a teacher at White Rose Junior School in Jinja City was remanded to Kirinya Prison for allegedly defiling a six-year-old pupil, a little girl whose innocence had been shattered, their trust betrayed by the very teacher who was meant to nurture and educate her. Justice Is being served but at what cost?
Defilement inflicts intense effects beyond physical harm, and the psychological scars manifest in anxiety, depression, flashbacks, nightmares, and a deep sense of violation, sometimes leading the victim to exhibit regressive behaviour. In addition, the victims’ academic performance may suffer affecting their future.
The prevalence of defilement could be because of abuse of power by teachers, or the poverty of learners that leads to out-of-court settlements. For example, when a child is tainted the defiler gives the family anything they ask for and the family lets the case die out.
So, the criminal goes on a defiling rampage knowing that all he has to do is to give a bit of money and go scot-free, and once the two parties decide to settle the case out of court. In such a scenario, the police cannot do anything. Furthermore, in the culture of silence, victims tend to become quiet due to psychological trauma, the feeling of shame, and the threats made by the defiler that lead victims to fear reporting to the police.
The urgency to act is paramount, as our children deserve an education free from fear, a chance to flourish without the shadow of defilement hanging over their dreams.
Schools should work hard to remain fortresses of safety and protection away from home, by providing sexual and reproductive health rights, clear codes of conduct for all staff, and a strict hiring protocol to establish a culture of safety within the education institutions.
Furthermore, the government hand in hand with learning institutions and the community should strengthen legal gaps and raise awareness about the rights of students and pupils thus empowering them to report and fight against defilement.
They should work together to fight against this growing vice and its perpetrators who stain the educational system. We should remind victims and other children that school is truly a sanctuary of hope and growth not a place they ought to fear.
Aisha Zawadi, Citizens’ Concern Africa