|Preliminary Investigation of the Abuse of Girls in Zimbabwean Junior Secondary Schools - Education research paper No. 39 (DFID, 2000, 100 p.)|
The law allows for a teacher to be dismissed for 'improper association' even if the girl is over the legal age of consent (16 years). In practice, not much is done, as school heads are reluctant to report such cases for the range of reasons detailed above. The central Ministry of Education has the power to dismiss teachers under Article 38 of the Education Act. If a school files a complaint, the regional Ministry should conduct an investigation and hold a hearing; their findings will then be forwarded to the Ministry in Harare which may decide to investigate further or request additional evidence. The decision to take action lies with the central Ministry: this could result in the teacher being charged, which might involve demotion or a salary cut for a certain period, or in dismissal. Cases of alleged rape or schoolgirl pregnancy involving a teacher would usually result in a criminal prosecution, in which case the regional police would pursue the court case and the Ministry decide on how to deal with the teacher professionally. There are currently more criminal prosecutions than before, but these are mainly of head teachers. Evidence of abusing teachers is hard to secure, as has been explained above. It does appear, however, that a stronger line is starting to be taken and more dismissals resulting.
As for intimidation and assault of girls by boys, this is another feature of the violent climate of the school and little appears to be done to address it. Lack of evidence is the usual excuse given. Moreover, a girl who becomes pregnant by a boy in the school must bear all the consequences; she will be expelled, will probably be unable to pick up her education again later and will be shunned by her family and friends, while the boy may continue with his studies as if nothing has happened, even though he may be guilty of under-age sex with a girl. In terms of equity and human rights, this is a flagrant injustice.
The same applies to the illegal use of corporal punishment. Little action is taken except where excessive beating results in injury, in which case it could lead to a criminal prosecution. The fact that the majority of teachers and head teachers administer it regularly in the belief that it is necessary to maintain discipline, and that some parents at least endorse its use (and use it frequently in the home), makes it very difficult to stamp out. The policy that it should only be used on boys is also controversial, as it is regarded by many as discriminatory.
16 However, we did receive detailed information from one boy about a married female teacher in his school making sexual advances to a Sixth Form boy in another school. The researcher also knew of two cases where volunteer female teachers from overseas had had affairs with Form 4 boys in local schools - and in one case she had married the boy and had three children.
17 No incidents of rape were reported in these schools, although girls knew of several incidents in the locality and several rape victims were reported to be pupils in the schools
18 The fact that they were often only a few years older than the girls in the upper forms of the school might encourage them to see schoolgirls as an appropriate object of their attention.
19 A survey of 300 Form 1 students carried out recently in School C revealed that 11 students had lost both parents, 35 had lost their father and 11 their mothers. Thus 19% of the sample had lost one or both parents. It is likely that the majority of deaths were AIDS-related.
20 For this reason, we have not revealed which schools were headed by women and which by men. This has allowed us to better protect the identities of the schools chosen as case studies.