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School heads meet amid warning over child sex abuse

By Augustine Oduor | June 15th 2015 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

More than 7, 000 head teachers are in Mombasa for an annual conference that opens Monday. This comes amid a warning by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) that the heads will be punished for sexual harassment cases in their secondary schools.

On the eve of the Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) conference bringing together 7, 300 delegates, TSC cautioned that head teachers will take personal responsibility for child defilement cases in their schools.

TSC Chair Lydia Nzomo Sunday said a lot of cases go unreported and accused the head teachers of forcing parents and victims to negotiate illegal deals with the perpetrators. "TSC has now made a decision that any defilement case that will be reported in a given school and no action is taken, the head teacher shall be interdicted," said Dr Nzomo.

She said the commission is increasingly getting information on students' abuse through the media yet the mentioned schools have head teachers. "In the last few weeks, the media has been awash with bad reports but as a commission, we are yet to get those reports and this means gross negligence on the part of school heads," said Nzomo.

The conference whose theme is 'Re-evaluating the relevance and quality of education in Kenya' will end on Friday.

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Kessha Chairman John Awiti said the association is concerned by the rising cases of child abuse in schools and asked individual teachers to take responsibility. "We shall not support any member found guilty for such acts or any member who condones such acts in their schools," said Awiti.

He said Kessha stands for professionalism and integrity in the education sector and shall not be associated with immoral acts.

Nzomo added that school heads who will be found to have directly abused children will be interdicted forthwith. "In the event that school heads are the culprits, the headquarter shall move swiftly to remove them from the teaching list and gazette their names," said Nzomo.

She said the TSC has established that child abuse cases are frustrated at school level and at the boards of management level.

"A child is expected to report the case to the head teacher when they are abused and the head is expected to get information from both the teacher and the victim. He or she then forwards the file to the board of management," said Nzomo.

She said in the case of secondary schools, the board is expected to interdict the teacher once found guilty.

"And for primary schools, because the boards are still being constituted, the County Directors of Education take up the matter," she said.

"But these cases do not even get to the board level because parents are asked to negotiate. And in the event they get to the board, the parent is told that the teacher has apologised. This must stop," she said.

She said children suffer emotional torture that haunt them for life. "This even lowers the quality of education in schools," she said.

The TSC chair said the commission is convinced that the 216 teachers who were struck off the teaching roll in April are not the only culprits. "There are many cases out there and we shall not allow those visiting injustice to children to continue earning a salary. For now, it seems as if TSC is not acting, which may not be the case," said Nzomo.

"Imagine TSC was allocated Sh 181.6 billion in this year's budget to cater for salaries and promotions to ensure teachers' welfare is catered for. But how do we justify this budget at the expense of children's suffering?" Nzomo asked.

Data from the TSC indicate that last year alone, some 914 discipline cases were reported. "These included immoral behaviours, corporal punishment, infamous conduct, absenteeism, dereliction of duty and desertion of duty," said Nzomo.

She said teachers must not act as if the country does not have sufficient relevant laws.

sexual harassment Lydia Nzomo Teachers Service Commission
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