Cases of sexual harassment and exploitation of students have started surfacing frequently in educational institutions.
A survey conducted by The Express Tribune in Islamabad reveals that besides the absence of control mechanism to effectively restrain such morally and ethically unscrupulous faculty members and staffers from exploiting students, the issue also lies with their lack of training and orientation.
“Many young people join the [teaching] profession without any proper instructions and orientation. They are unaware of the ethics of this pious profession,” said a senior teacher at Quaid-i-Azam University during an interview with The Express Tribune. He said that all universities must include strict terms and condition in employment contracts of teachers to effectively control such acts of exploitation and harassment, adding that the contract should be duly signed by the faculty members before joining the institution.
However, he also called for protective mechanisms for teachers who could be victimised under the anti-harassment law through false allegations levelled against them by students.
“Most of the sexual harassment cases in educational institutions are never reported due to the social complications of discussing such issues publicly,” said a professor of Quaid-i-Azam University. He said that there is an urgent need to educate teachers about the moral and ethical boundaries of the teaching profession, which is a duty of all educational institutes.
The professor noted that teachers have a dominated role in almost all educational institutes and they misuse their powers particularly by threatening to fail students in their exams. He suggested that teachers should avoid holding individual meeting with students in their offices, and instead, should either call group meetings with students or give them extra time in classrooms when needed.
A senior administrative official in National University of Modern Languages (NUML) University said, “The focus should be on creating awareness among the teachers and students, rather than amending teachers’ contract documents by inserting clauses to control exploitation and harassment of students”.
When contacted, Higher Education Commission (HEC) Executive Director Sohail Naqvi said that exploitation of students in educational institutions has been “part of our culture, which needs to be amended. Teachers need to taught what is right and wrong”. He said that the commission aims to address the issue by creating awareness among the teachers as well as the students.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2011.