Ombudsman Martha Chizuma has given the office of Ntchisi District Education Manager (DEM) two weeks to report on measures taken against teachers who had sexual relationships with pupils.
During an Ombudsman mobile public hearing at Ntchisi District Executive Committee (DEC) meeting yesterday, the Ombudsman enquired about three teachers who are reported to have had sexual relations with minors but are still serving.
Investigations Chizuma’s office carried out between February and May this year indicate that the courts acquitted the teachers.
Said Chizuma: “It is sad that such cases were acquitted and the teachers are still teaching. You never know, by now they may have impregnated more girls. What is it that you are doing? I am giving you two weeks from now. I would like the report on the follow up progress so we can see how we can handle it.”
According to a report presented to the DEC by the Ombudsman, the teachers accepted having sexual relations with 16, 17 and 14-year-olds but were acquitted on the grounds of lack of proper evidence. The police, the courts and the hospitals said the case was difficult to prove as the victims sought medical review late.
Ntchisi Police officer-in-charge Edward Chingaipe said the police act on evidence in rape or defilement cases.
“Often, we lose the cases in court because the court asks for evidence, thus a medical report. But it is always too late to produce that evidence because the victims have bathed and mostly they come a week later,” he stated.
However, the Ombudsman observed that a lot more needs to be done–including a review of the cases by the Teachers Union of Malawi–to protect the girl-child from teachers who are supposed to protect them.
Ntchisi DEM representative Hammex Malithano said his office does not condone the behaviour of the errant teachers.
He said: “We summon them to the office but our setback comes after the court rulings. So, we follow the rulings, and act on them. It’s true the teachers are still teaching in other schools, but we will follow it up.”
The office of the Ombudsman has since started conducting mobile clinics to allow people to practice their rights, including querying any perceived injustices.
According to Chizuma, Malawians need to discard the habit of failing, or fearing, to report injustices in public service delivery.
She said she knew of the Ntchisi case after one of the teachers visited her office to ask for compensation for the time of his time of interdiction, but after interrogation the teacher admitted the affair with a pupil.
Civil Society Education Coalition executive director Benedicto Kondowe said the lack of evidence complicates the issue.
“It’s a good idea and it will be up to court to determine any maladministration,” he said. n