At least 52 cases of defilement of pupils in school have been registered by Police in Mbarara district in the last one year.
The District Education Officer (DEO) for Mbarara, Gabriel Ahimbisibwe told SoftPower News that he was shocked to discover that 52 defilement cases were reported at Mbarara CPS in a period of one year.
The most recent case involved an education assistant identified as Fudel Nuwagaba who allegedly sexually assaulted a P.7 pupil of Kanyantura P/S in Ndeija sub county in Mbarara district on 18 October 2018.
The DEO says since then Fudel went into hiding but was scrapped off the pay role and is on run.
Ahimbisibwe attributes the prevalence of sexual harassment against pupils in schools largely to poverty which makes the children vulnerable. However, a committee of Parliament which was recently visiting Mbarara to investigate issues of sexual harassment among institutions of learning noted that whereas some institutions like universities have enacted policies against sexual misconduct towards learners, the problem is most prominent in Primary schools.
The same committee upon completing its visit in Mbarara tasked authorities in the district to follow up on three special cases of sexual harassment cases in Primary Schools.
Western youth MP, Mwine Mpaka who is part of the nine-member committee of Parliameent says the findings of their investigation will be presetted to.parliament and used to enact a sexual harassment act.
“We hope that out of our comprehensive inquiry, we shall be able to gather enough information that will help this committee to submit a comprehensive report to Parliament to enact a law that can help to fight this vice in institutions of learning,” he said.
The Mbarara district Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Cuthbert Esoku who availed the detailed cases of sexual violence in the district including the 52 cases, to this website said the authorities have the ability to deal with the cases.
He told SoftPower News that when perpetrators are caught, they are forwarded to the Rewards and Sanctions committee for disciplinary action.
“We have the Public Service Act which assigns responsibility to act in case there are cases of indiscipline, but we also have a Rewards and Sanctions committee that gives parties on either side a chance to explain themselves depending on the magnitude of the cases,” CAO said.
He says that the leadership at the district level relies on reports from school heads regarding cases of sexual misconduct.
“Sometimes, we provide legal aid to the victims teaming up with our patterns like Police, the family protection unit, probation officers, the community development officers at sub-counties and the network of government” explained the CAO.
He however stated that in most of the cases, victims negotiate with perpetrators and settle the issue out of court, due to lack of trust in the Police.
“Our capacity to deal with the matter depends also on the cooperation of witnesses. Most times, when there is such a matter, communities tend to negotiate with the parties because sometime they also don’t have faith in the police”.
He noted that such settlements undermine the law and the punitive measures prescribed therein which would otherwise help in deterring such immoral behavior.
On the issue of the proposed Sexual Harassment Act, Esoku does not believe this will stop people from harassing young children in communities.
Instead, he proposes that such laws are made stringent enough to prevent further reocccurence.
“There are situations where you have laws but people are still violating it. What we want are laws that are strong enough so that they either discourage or reparations are given to the victims or survivors of the problems,” the CAO said.
While addressing parents and students at the 16th graduation of Nyamitanga College of Business Studies last Friday, Archbishop Paul K Bakyenga also downplayed the impact that the committee in reducing the vice of sexual harassment in schools. He revealed that the Catholic Church has already issued guidelines to the Ministry of Education which will make it easier to implement the new guidelines on sex education. He said that it is through the church that morals are nurtured.
The Deputy Vice Chancellor in-charge of academics at MUST, Ass Prof Nixon Kamukama, also said that the Sexual Violence Act will not do much in fighting the vice in schools and institutions.
He suggested that sexual harassment be fought by appointing the right individuals into offices.
“Policies are always there but people act otherwise. Sexual violence is a psycho-social problem,” said Kamukama.
Kamukama revealed that a lecturer at MUST was advised to resign in 2017 after being reported by one of the students for texting her sex messages on WhatsApp.
”At MUST, we have not heard many cases concerning sexual harassment except in 2017 when a lecturer was reportedly luring a student into sex. His services were terminated and the girl successfully completed her course and graduated,” said Kamukama.
In accordance to the Penal code (Amendment) Act 2007 Uganda Legal information Institute (1) Any person, who performs a sexual act with another person who is below the age of eighteen years, commits felony as defilement and is on conviction liable to life imprisonment.
We tried to reach police’s spokesperson cadet ASP Samson Kasasira together with the deputy RDC Emmy Katera Turyabagyenyi but they did not pick our reported calls over same matter.