Kampala, Uganda | URN | Makerere University has suspended three members of its academic staff for alleged sexual harassment against female students.
Vincent Ssajjabi, an Assistant Lecturer in the School of Economics, Medard Twinobuhungiro, an Assistant Lecturer in the School of Business and Jackson Sekiryango from School of Languages, Literature and Communication have been suspended by the vice-chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe.
Although Makerere has a “zero tolerance” policy on sexual harassment, there have been several cases of sexual harassment and sexual assaults in the past few months. A 2018 report on the investigation of sexual harassment at Makerere University established several factors perceived to be the major causes of sexual harassment at the university.
These include abuse of power by those holding academic and administrative authority. Respondents argued that abuse stemmed from inequalities in power and from the exploitation of such power in gender relations, lecturer-student relationships, boss-employee relationships, and socioeconomic status.
The committee had also noted that the university environment is generally attuned to a patriarchal culture which stereotypes females as sexual objects and there is a campus “fraternity” culture, all of which shape attitudes that contribute to inappropriate sexual behaviour.
In one of the latest cases, assistant lecturer Twinobuhungiro was recorded by his student demanding sex or else he sets a hard exam paper that will make her fail. On February 26, 2018, a female student accused Dr Swizen Kyomuhendo, a senior lecturer in the department of Social Work and Social Administration in the School of Social Sciences, of sexually harassing her. Dr Kyomuhendo was suspended, investigated and later sacked in December last year.
In July 2017 Brian Musaga, a lecturer in the School of Statistics and Planning while in charge of examinations was accused by six female students from the school of sexually harassing and assaulting them and the university suspended him.
In April 2017 two female students of medicine and surgery approached the Mentorship Committee of the College of Health Sciences complaining of being sexually harassed by some lecturers. After these two lodged their complaints, more students got the courage to come out, revealing a pattern of abuse.
One of the doctors is a well-respected senior researcher who attracts a lot of funding to the college. Under the influence of alcohol, he would allegedly lock female students in his office, and make sexually-suggestive comments to them. The students claimed that he follows some of them to their halls of residence.
In April 2018, Edward Kisuze, an officer in the Academic Registrar’s department, was arrested after he allegedly abused a former female student, Rachael Njoroge while she was seeking certification of her academic documents.
Also in 2018, three young females who work with Kenya Airport Parking Services reported a case of sexual abuse by a directorate of ICT Support male staff member to the Estates and Works Department of the university, which directly supervises KAPS work. KAPS was contracted by the university to manage its automated vehicle control and parking services on campus.
Over the past several years, there has been endless sexual harassment reports at Makerere University, instructors have been accused of luring female students to private meeting so often in closed rooms — to discuss their allegedly low grades. In some cases, the instructors are accused of offering the students better grades in exchange for sex.
Makerere University has an anti-sexual harassment policy that mandates tough punishments for perpetrators. They include suspension, demotion, a written warning, and the ordering of a public apology or compensation to the aggrieved student.