Linda was promised good grades in return for sex, now she has a baby and is no longer in school
ZAMBEZIA, Mozambique, 2 May 2011 – Linda (not her real name) is a 16-year old girl from a city in Zambezia, who was taken advantage of sexually by her teacher, a 40-year old man, known and respected in the community. Linda is small and frail with braided hair. With an air of young and girlish naiveté about her, it is easy to believe her when she says that she didn’t fully understand what was happening to her. In return for sex, her teacher had promised her that she would get good grades and would easily pass her exams. Soon she started to feel strange and sick, however, experiencing a churning stomach and nausea in the morning, but she didn’t quite know what it was until she talked to her parents, who explained to her how such things work. As a result of the repeated sexual abuse by her teacher, a man who exploited the power differential between them and took advantage of her, Linda had become pregnant. She gave birth to a little baby girl late last year.
“I decided to go with the girl’s father and speak to the school management myself, to learn which steps had been taken in this case and understand why the teacher had not been suspended,” says a UNICEF Mozambique staff member.
“The school management told me that they had done what needed to be done, which was to pass the case on to the school authorities in Quelimane,” continues the staff member.
When questioned about why the teacher had not been suspended in the meantime, the school administrator said that it was not within the school’s authority to do so and that such decisions are passed up the administrative system. So, no action had been taken, and the teacher remained at work.
Feeling empowered by observing the dialogue, however, the girl’s father confronted the school administrator and asked why the school had suspended his daughter and not the teacher and why the school had accused his daughter of damaging the school’s reputation. The parents had been so drained and discouraged by the experience of dealing with the school, that they had not brought the case to the police, but now they decided to do so. Shortly thereafter, at the local victim care unit, known as the ‘gabinete de atendimento’, the case was duly registered.
Her teacher had offered Linda good grades in return for sex. When the parents found out, they approached the school, but nothing was done. While the teacher is still at work, Linda was suspended, ostensibly for becoming pregnant and giving the school a bad reputation. Despite the Ministry of Education’s zero tolerance policy towards sexual abuse of children in schools, such abuse continues to exist and is a significant contributing factor to the high school drop-out rates among girls. Linda’s story highlights the difficulty of enforcing the policies that are in place and break the culture of silence – the quiet acceptance that allows sexual abuse to continue. In fact, while the perpetrator continues working as before, it is the victim that has been punished, the opposite of what established legislation and policies intend.
The case has still not been resolved, and the teacher remains in school.
For more information, please contact:
Arild Drivdal, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email: email@example.com