Sexually Harassed Ghanaian College Students Urged to Speak Up
A BBC documentary exposed lecturers who prey on female students.
By Stacey Knott
ACCRA , GHANA — The University of Ghana is looking into the allegations made against staff in a BBC investigation, which found teachers harassing would-be students.
The Sex for Grades documentary showed university lecturers at both the University of Ghana and the University of Lagos propositioning female reporters who were posing as students.
Ghanaian activist Eugenia Baffour, who contributed research to the investigation, says abusers often operate with a sense of impunity. However, she says, the fallout is prompting more victims to speak out.
"Something good has already come out even for the number of stories that came out," Baffour said.
"The kind of courage and strength it gave a lot of victims and survivors to speak out about their abusers was a huge step for us in the right direction when it comes to us not being silenced anymore as a victim," she added.
As first reported by the BBC, there are increasing allegations of sexual harassment by teachers at West African universities.
The University of Ghana's Anti-Sexual Harassment Committee is investigating two of the accused, who have both denied the allegations.
The committee head, Margaret Amoakohene, says they are intensifying their outreach but need student victims to come forward.
"All we ask of them is don't endure any humiliation, don't endure any harassment," Amoakohene said. "Let us take that responsibility, and once you inform us, you are virtually saying, 'I am unloading this burden on you. Take it up.' And we shall do that."
"But if you don't tell us, and you keep it to yourself, you are emboldening the perpetrator," she added.
The university's Student Representative Council (SRC) Women's Commissioner, Awurakua Addo Nyarko, says that while the allegations of sex-for-grades are disturbing, they are not new.
She hopes the scandal will bring awareness to students who were not familiar with the university's policy — that they can and should report harassment.
"We feel over the years, there hasn't been the enabling environment for victims to approach the SRC and address or inform them about these malpractices or these mishappenings that are going on," she said. "So, we are creating the enabling environment so it's a peer-to-peer group."
Meanwhile, the student council is launching a campaign to support victims of sexual harassment, and also one to educate teachers about inappropriate behaviour with students.