Liberia: Sexual Exploitation & Abuse Prevalent but Unaddressed in Margibi and Bong County Schools

SAIL Staff Godfrey D. Tarpeh & Rita C. Kollie conduct an SEA awareness session with students at the E. J. Yancy Annex in Kakata City, Margibi

In the Gborfehla Community of Kakata City, Margibi County, concerns over the prevalence of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) in public schools have been brought to light by a comprehensive report conducted by Survivors Aid International Liberia Inc. (SAIL). The report, covering the first quarterly bulletin on SEA in Bong and Margibi Counties, sheds light on the grim reality faced by students in these regions.

Under the auspices of the USAID Civil Society Activity project, SAIL has been actively monitoring thirty public schools across Bong and Margibi counties to assess how educational institutions handle cases of SEA. The findings of the initial monitoring exercise, conducted from October 26-29, 2023, paint a troubling picture.

A total of 194 individuals, including students, teachers, and school administrators, were interviewed during the assessment. Among the key discoveries was the absence of a structured mechanism within the targeted schools to address instances of SEA. Despite the Ministry of Education’s guidelines outlined in its Code of Conduct for Teachers and School Administrators, which explicitly prohibit such misconduct, none of the schools had a protocol in place to effectively tackle SEA.

The testimonies gathered from students during the monitoring exercise revealed a culture of fear and silence surrounding SEA. Despite the prevalence of such incidents, students expressed reluctance to report them due to concerns about stigma and potential retaliation from authorities. Several distressing accounts emerged from both Bong and Margibi counties, underscoring the urgent need for action.

In one instance, a student from Dolkelen Gboveh High School in Gbarnga recounted how a teacher coerced her into a sexual relationship under the threat of academic repercussions. Similarly, a female student from John Flomo Bakalu Public School detailed her ordeal of being persistently harassed by a teacher, resulting in her transfer to another institution.

Compounding the issue is the lack of proactive measures from school administrators, who often dismiss rumors of SEA due to the absence of formal complaints. Despite acknowledging the existence of SEA, many principals and vice principals admitted to never having received reports of such incidents, further perpetuating a culture of impunity.

In response to these alarming findings, SAIL has issued a series of recommendations aimed at addressing SEA within public schools. These include advocating for enhanced training on the Ministry of Education’s Code of Conduct, fostering awareness campaigns within school communities, and establishing robust reporting mechanisms to encourage students to come forward with complaints.

Furthermore, collaboration between educational authorities, law enforcement agencies, and civil society organizations is emphasized as essential in ensuring the protection and support of survivors of SEA.

Efforts such as the establishment of health clubs, like the one initiated by Action Aid at Suakoko Central High School, serve as promising initiatives to address SEA. However, sustained action at both the institutional and community levels is imperative to effect meaningful change and safeguard the well-being of students.

The post Liberia: Sexual Exploitation & Abuse Prevalent but Unaddressed in Margibi and Bong County Schools appeared first on FrontPageAfrica.