The Management of Makerere University has come out to dismiss allegations of sexual abuse against students by security personnel that were recently deployed at the university during the students’ strike.
Students at Makerere have been on strike for over a week, protesting the 15% increment in tuition fees which they say is unfair. Security personnel (Police and military) were deployed at the campus to contain the situation.
However, there were reports that the armed forces who raided students’ halls of residence during the night assaulted some students and that some females were sexually abused.
While appearing before the Parliament committee on Education on Wednesday, the team led by the Chairperson University Council, Lorna Magara and the Vice Chancellor, Barnabas Nawangwe noted that ever since allegations of sexual abuse started circulating, no student has ever reported to any laid down structures as provided by the university policy.
The Acting University Secretary, Yusuf Kiranda told committee members that the university follows a policy of zero tolerance to sexual harassment which is enforced through the Policy and Regulations Against Sexual Harassment enacted in 2006 and revised in 2019.
Kiranda said the university Management continues to act decisively and openly when allegations of sexual harassment are brought to its attention and as such, the Vice Chancellor has previously suspended staff who have been alleged to commit acts of sexual harassment and are currently undergoing the disciplinary processes of the University.
Kiranda noted that Management has further set up a committee which is continuing to investigate allegations of sexual harassment.
“Students can report cases of sexual harassment to their Hall Wardens, the Dean of Students, the Counselling and Guidance Centre, Programme Coordinators, Chaplains of the two Chapels of the University Imam, the Vice Chancellor of the Police,” Kiranda said.
Kiranda noted that in regard to the current unrest, the allegations of sexual abuse of students have only emerged on social media.
The University Management has not received any complaints of alleged sexual abuse from students or the police, he said.
“In fact, Ms. Siperia Molly Saasiraabo, the student who was allegedly sexually abused as per social media reports dismissed the allegations in an interview she had with NTV,” Kiranda noted.
According to Kiranda, Management has requested any student with a complaint relating to sexual abuse to come forward so that the matter can be handled, but no student has come up to-date.
However, Kasese Woman MP, Winnie Kiiza noted that the issue of sexual harassment of students should not be casually handled by the university but must be investigated further .
“We should understand that by nature, very few women will come out to say that they are sexually abused, it would be unfair to simply say that you have opened up files and waiting for complaints from students,” Kiiza said.
She reminded the university leadership that during the Parliament probe into the sexual abuse in schools, a number of victims appeared before the probe yet they had never reported before the university management.