… Urges universities to ‘break the silence
By Eliaser Ndeyanale
UNIVERSITY of Namibia (Unam) professor, Elizabeth Magano Amukugo, has urged local universities to crack down on sexual harassment on their campuses, while pressing the higher learning institutions to take the necessary steps to address the issue.
In her 157-page book, titled Democracy and Education in Namibia Beyond: A Critical Appraisal, Amukugo devotes the entire chapter nine to the thorny subject of “breaking the silence” around sexual harassment at institutional of higher learning.
The book was launched by Higher Education, Training and Innovation Minister Dr Itah Kandjii-Murangi last week Thursday at the Unam main campus in Windhoek
In February this year, Unam Southern Campus Student Representative Council (SRC) Vice-President, Shikulo Eben-esser, made explosive claims that some lecturers at the campus deliberately fail female students, who refuse to have sexual affairs with them.
In her book, Amukugo, who is a former Swapo parliamentarian, suggested that universities should put in place policies and procedures that encourage prompt reporting and the independent investigation of allegations of sexual harassment, by competent bodies.
“In view of the fact that the majority of the victims of sexual harassment are female, it is deemed a form of sex discrimination. It violates the victim’s fundamental human rights,” she wrote.
She said that acts of sexual harassment hamper a woman’s full participation in academic life and educational achievement.
“Universities should be at the forefront of protecting those rights, and therefore should swiftly eliminate any form of abuse and discriminatory actions. Acts of sexual harassment often go unpunished, due to the difficulty victims have in recognising such acts as harassment. Institutions deny and trivialise sexual harassment.”
Amukugo said that institutions that ignore sexual harassment do so at their own peril, since it undermines the culture of teaching and learning inside those institutions.
In addition, wrote Amukugo, institutions have an obligation to provide a safe working and learning environment, in which everyone’s human rights are protected.
“Failure to do could result in litigation. With sexual harassment, prevention is better than cure. It is therefore important to raise awareness about what sexual harassment entails, its consequences, and the institutional policies and procedures, which should be in place to deal with it.
“Guarantees of confidentiality and whistleblower protection may encourage its exposure, and deter would-be sexual predators from abusing their power. Contrary to the openness of a democratic culture, institutions of higher learning often refuse to acknowledge the existence of sexual harassment. It is, however, a democratic imperative to tackle this phenomenon seriously, and acknowledge its discrimination nature.”
Amukugo said that sexual harassment includes physical, verbal, visual and non-verbal actions, which include “undressing looks”, winking and whistling.
While tackling education in her book, she said that the Harambee Prosperity Plan’s option of divorcing vocational educational and training (VET) from the overall, general education system is “worrisome”.
“From our point of view, it would be more beneficial for Namibia to the focus on creating VET opportunities and pathways/study lines within senior secondary schools, so as to create a solid foundation on which VET centres can build,” she wrote.
“This is so, because not all secondary school students possess the theoretical acumen and interest to proceed to university level. There is hence a need to create chances for all, through multiple pathways/ study lines within the secondary education. Such VET programmes can be implemented in conjunction with industry, which government has often emphasised.”
In her speech at the launch, Amukugo explained that the book was birthed from a research project, which was never published.
Reflecting on the relationship between education and democracy, Amukugo said informed citizens are more likely to play an active and meaningful role in the democratic process.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015