Lecturers sleeping with students rife at varsities and colleges – deputy minister
Lecturers who sleep with students hoping for higher marks will not be tolerated at institutions of higher learning. Higher Education Deputy Minister Mduduzi Manana told more than 300 students and staff attending the provincial launch of the annual First Things First Campaign at the Goldfields auditorium at the north campus yesterday the department would enforce a new policy to be drafted in August.
Manana revealed that up until now the Department of Higher Education did not have a clear and responsive plan for handling rape incidents or those of lecturers who offered students good marks if they slept with them.
Manana said while the sexual assault and rape of female students was highlighted by Rhodes University students who protested topless last year, the department had uncovered a longstanding problem that was previously suppressed.
“After the Rhodes incident, we realised there was a bigger problem – the rape culture in our institutions is not new but it was suppressed,” he said.
Manana said one of the largest problems was lecturers sleeping with students in return for good marks.
“We engaged with universities and found there was an outcry not only from your privileged universities, but historically disadvantaged institutions and TVET colleges were also saying we have this problem,” Manana said.
A task team of 15 individuals, including members from the National Prosecuting Authority, is drafting a policy to be presented by August.
“By the end of this year, we will have a responsive plan to deal with lecturers who sleep with students.
“We don’t want lecturers who abuse female students in exchange for marks – it’s wrong and unethical and cannot be allowed,” Manana said.
A number of Rhodes University students, who attended yesterday’s discussion, declined to comment on rape incidents at Rhodes.
A young woman, who declined to be named, said: “The situation is still very sensitive at Rhodes.”
“Blessers” and “spice mommies” – older people who slept with youngsters in exchange for goods – also took centre stage at the event as speaker after speaker urged students to avoid relationships with older men and women who offered luxuries in exchange for sex.
Higher education HIV/Aids programmes director Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia said 14% of the higher education population was involved in transactional sex in the form of “blessers”.
“In South Africa, seven million out of 15 million young people are living with HIV/Aids and now studies have shown 80% of new infections are coming from people between 18 and 24 years of age and many of these people are university students,” Ahluwalia said.
“The aim of the campaign is to encourage young people to prioritise their health holistically, not just when it comes to HIV.”
HIV/Aids testing along with TB and STI screening were among the health services available on site, while students and staff could also check their sugar levels and blood pressure. First Things First brand ambassador and motivational speaker Criselda Kananda Dudumashe said the high infection rate among students was further exacerbated by the “blesser” trend as a result of social and economic issues.
“For students this is heightened as TVET college and university students are exposed to people who come from different backgrounds, who are well off and have access to the things they want,” she said.