When the teacher indulges in sexual misconduct
The teacher, under no circumstance, should be linked to any form of misconduct, be it sexual misconduct or whatever.
Aside from being a dispenser of knowledge, the teacher performs and must be seen to have been performing the role of a leader, counsellor and a motivator.
Our Education Minister Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, in a message to teachers at last year’s National Best Teacher and Best School Awards in Koforidua, said, “We want teachers to become professionally competent with the right values and ethics, confident, practically oriented, learner-cen tred facilitators of learning. This is the kind of teachers needed for the 21st century and who will help our country achieve sustainable development for the next generation of children.”
The teacher is a role model to pupils and students and to other members of the general public. Director-General of Ghana Education Service (GES) Professor Kwasi Opoku-Amankwa is also on record to have recently said, “…our children and stakeholders of education always demand the best of professional performance from us as teachers and educators.”
By training and by ethics, the teacher ought to perform all duties well and to live above reproach. And on what happens in case the teacher should act contrary to his or her core functions, including having to indulge in sexual misconduct, is what this article seeks toexpound.
What is sexual misconduct at all?
Sexual misconduct, in this context, refers to what happens in the school system between a teacher (usually a male teacher) and his female pupil or student. Osam (2004), in her book, “Violence against Women in Ghana”, identifies sexual misconduct, also referred to as sexual violence, as prevalent forms of offences, such as sexual harassment, incest, rape and defilement.
As Bortei-Doku, Aryeteey and Kuenyehia (1998) identify domestic workers and non-nuclear relatives, such as cousins and nieces, as being prone to sexual harassment at homes, Adjetey (1999) looks at it as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, whether or not directly linked to the grant or denial of an economic consideration, where such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment. Osam (2004) thinks that sexual harassment is prevalent in the churches, schools, festive grounds and at other social gatherings in the communities.
The Criminal Code (1960, Act 29), as amended by Act 554 Section 105, which makes incest a second-degree felony, links the act to any male of sixteen years or over who has carnal knowledge of or who permits a female whom he knows to be his grand-daughter daughter, sister, half-sister, mother or grandmother to have carnal knowledge of him.
On rape and defilement, the Criminal Code (1960, Act 29; Section 97), as amended by Act 458, Section 2(a), says, “Whoever carnally knows any female under fourteen years of age, whether with or without her consent, shall be guilty of a second degree felony and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than twelve months or more than ten years.”
Meanwhile, Osam (2004) explains that in June 1998, the Government of Ghana passed the Criminal Code Amendment Act, of which rape and defilement have been considered as a first-degree felony, and which should attract an imprisonment of five to twenty-five years.
The teacher and sexual misconduct
The incessant reported cases of sexual misconduct, especially those linked to some teachers and their pupils and students, in recent times, is a matter of grave concern to all of us. Though this write-up could not chance upon any concrete data on the exact number of teachers involved in acts of sexual impropriety as yet, media reports of some of the issues should prick us hard to act.
We cannot afford to continue to see the image of the teaching profession being dragged in the mud with the fate of our girls and young women being hanged in the balance due to sexual misconduct by some miscreants. Every child needs protection and we must protect them.
The school has pupils (or students), teachers and stakeholders. Interestingly, whatever happens in the school, whether good or bad, affects all of us directly. The Headteachers’ Handbook of GES (2010, page 318) also suggests that “The school and community need to work closely together for each other’s benefit.” It is for this reason that the teacher cannot and should not be left to do whatever he likes in the school and with the pupils and students that he teaches.
And why would any school head, director of education or a parent choose to defend any teacher believed to have committed any sexual crime?Once proven guilty, the sexually misbehaved teacher ought to be made to face the full exactitudes of the law so as to deter others.
The GES appreciates that as a human institution, the school is liable to face some cases of misconduct, including sexual misconduct, and so it has a Code to check on its personnel.
The Unified Code of Conduct for the Personnel in GES (2005, page 8), therefore, bluntly says, “An employee proven to have sexually harassed another person at the workplace will be deemed to have misconducted himself or herself” and that, “No employee shall indulge in immoral relations or have sexual intercourse (either with or without the consent of the victim) with a pupil or student in pre-tertiary public or private institution. It further accentuates, “An employee who has an immoral relation with a pupil or student in any pre-tertiary public or private educational institution, which results in pregnancy, shall be sanctioned.”
What are the sanctions for sexual misconduct?
This article lacks the gleam to comment on any of the major cases of sexual impropriety, which are reported to have hit our schools in recent times as they are still being investigated. The belief, however, is that discipline and justice shall soon be seen to have been served across the board.
There is no agency or institution, including GES, which is prepared to shield any individual or a group of individuals who has done any wrong. The page 325 of the Headteachers’ Handbook of GES (2010) names rape and sexual affair with any school girl resulting in pregnancy and/or abortion as offences that should attract outright dismissal from the Service. Suspension without pay for two years shall be done in a case of a sexual affair with a schoolgirl other than rape and when repeated, the offending teacher will have to be dismissed. Disciplinary transfer of the teachers involved (forfeiture of transfer benefits) is the sanction for adultery among teachers.
Mere allegations do not necessarily warrant sanctions. An investigation is always done through laid-down structures (right from the school system through the district to the region and to GES Council) with all the necessary evidence and recommendations properly documented. And that is why Leadership for Change: A Handbook for GES Management Staff (2014) reminds, “At one time or the other, some of your (referring to the district director of education) workers may engage in certain acts that may not be in conformity within the norms of the Service. These acts need to be dealt with by a well-constituted body…”
In all of this, however, the support of all persons and bodies, including parents, teacher unions and the media, is needed to achieve the best of results that we want from our children and for our country.
- The writer is an educationist and a Public Relations Officer at the Headquarters of the Ghana Education Service in Accra.