Irene Githinji @gitshee
Randy teachers and sex pests preying on school children face life imprisonment if proposed new penalties sail through Parliament.
The government, through the Ministry of Education, proposed harsh penalties for perpetrators of defilement and sexual violence in schools.
The move comes in the wake of growing concerns over increased cases of sexual violence against students and pupils by their teachers, support staff and intruders.
Education Cabinet secretary Amina Mohamed yesterday announced the proposed guidelines that could help ensure the safety of learners.
In the new guidelines, a person found guilty of sexually assaulting a minor—of below 10 years—will face life imprisonment. Defiling a minor aged over 10 years will attract a penalty of not less than 10 years jail-term with a possibility of extension to life imprisonment.
For attempted rape, perpetrators will serve not less than five years in jail, though it could also be extended to life imprisonment. Where cases of rape have been confirmed, the sentence will be not less than 10 years, with a possibility of being enhanced to life term.
In cases where indecent acts with a minor are reported, the penalty will now be not less than 10 years in jail.
“The government is committed to protecting all victims at all times and to ensure they can confidently report incidences and have access to services and support, including medical psycho-social, legal and material assistance,” the guidelines read in part.
The guidelines come against the backdrop of increased reports of rape cases in schools, with Moi Girls School, Nairobi incident the most recent. The incident in which a girl was raped in her dormitory triggered public outcry, with questions on the safety of learners within schools.
And yesterday, more than 700 students of Maasai Girls High School in Narok walked out of the institution, protesting alleged sexual harassment by a male teacher.
The students claimed the teacher attempted to defile one of them, adding that he has been asking them for sexual favours. The school was closed down for a week.
In the new proposed guidelines, the ministry is pushing for administrative measures to safeguard and ensure reporting systems are employed in sexual violence cases.
They include operationalising and strengthening guidance and counselling departments, installing surveillance cameras at strategic points in schools and fencing of learning institutions.
The ministry, through the Department of Early Learning and Basic Education, has also called for prominent display of sexual and gender-based violence messages at strategic points as well as minimising the number of teaching and non-teaching staff who access dormitories.
The new rules also call for separation of amenities such as toilets and bathrooms for students and staff as well as proper lighting of school compounds.
There will also be due diligence beforehand to ensure all prospective staff are vetted. “When a learner is affected by any form of sexual violence, it is important that the case is reported to the relevant authorities as soon as practicable,” reads the guidelines.