Why Lecturer – Student Relationships are Unacceptable

While students and their lecturers are ‘consenting adults’ and their relationships appear acceptable, the truth is such acts fall under the broad category of sexual harassment.

by Tam’sanqa Mhepoh | @ndebeleshona | Feature

A LECTURER is involved in a romantic relationship with a student. The teaching assistant gets a date with a student as payment for accepting late submission of an assignment. A fellow male student repeatedly sends sexually loaded multi-media and jokes to a female counterpart’s WhatsApp inbox.

So what? Aren’t universities and colleges adult learning institutions? Can’t students take an ‘adult’ joke?

While students and their lecturers are ‘consenting adults’ and their relationships appear acceptable, the truth is such acts fall under the broad category of sexual harassment. Unwanted actions, verbal or physical of a sexual nature may appear minor but can create an uncomfortable or even hostile learning environment.

Hope Nguni*, a student at the National University of Science and Technology was engulfed with emotion when she narrated her story.

Tears filled her eyes.

Nguni’s lecturer had been making sexual advances at her.

Despite having been turned down countless, the lecturer continued to pester Nguni until she could not bear it anymore.

He became hostile towards her and to save herself the aggression, she had to shelve her studies for a while.

“I ended up completing a four year degree in six years because of that situation,” said Nguni.

According to a survey done by Female Students Network Trust (FSN), 98% of female students have experienced sexual harassment mainly by their lecturers who use final exam marking as a tool to force them to give in to their demands.

Speaking during a dialogue meeting in Harare, FSN director Evernice Munando said a number of students have been sexually harassed.

“The statistics are shocking. Female students are suffering at the hands of their male lecturers who promise them passes in exchange of sexual favours. But this has to end. The female students should come out and report these matters to the police. It is high time we put an end to this,” Munando said.

According to the survey, apart from the lecturers, non-academic staff like security guards and other students at tertiary learning institutions are also sexually harassing female students.

[*Not her real name ]

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