Like the United States where recent allegations of sexual assault have rocked the nation, the sexual misconduct of a teacher at Bishops’ High School (BHS) has shocked Guyanese at home and abroad.
The problem of sexual assault in high schools is not new. It has been around for years. But unfortunately, the culture of secrecy has seen such allegations reduced to mere rumors. This is due to the fact that within our education system, there exists an elitist attitude in which protecting the reputation of BHS and other esteemed institutions seems to take precedence over everything else, including the sexual assault of students.
However, thanks to Ruel Johnson, the news came of a senior government official who made it public that a male school teacher has been systematically grooming female students at BHS just as they reach the age of consent.
Such allegations stunned the nation partly because BHS has long been regarded as one of the nation’s most prestigious education institutions known for its academic excellence and the guardian of discipline. The teacher in question, Mr. Coen Jackson, who previously taught at several schools around the country, has denied the allegations.
In a small society like ours, no one will escape blame if we do not nip such deviant behavior in the bud. There must be a quick fix or instant remedy to this problem.
This issue must be taken seriously by all in society because schools are regarded as safe places for children to learn and develop. They are not training grounds for sexual predators, indiscipline and criminal activity.
However, experts have opined that sexual relationships are natural in the course of human relations, but they have no place in our schools. It is troubling that students are being preyed on and worse, by teachers.
The students were allegedly violated by a person in authority who acted without regard for the law and to his duty to protect them.
It is critically important for parents and teachers to deal with the systematic sexual assaults by this teacher. In August 2012, a school teacher from West Coast Berbice was arrested and subsequently charged for sexually molesting several female students between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years old at the school where he taught. Shortly after this incident, another teacher attached to a school in West Demerara was arrested after he was accused of having sex with a nine year-old boy, who had to be hospitalized.
In December 2015, another teacher from Berbice was arrested for impregnating a fourteen-year-old student at the school where he was employed. And last April, a teacher from the Corentyne was arrested and charged under the Sexual Offences Act of 2010 for forcing two teenage sisters to perform oral sex on him.
However, one of the worse cases of sexual abuse on children in this country is still pending, this occurred at the Turkeyen Masjid. Between December 2011 and January 2012. Mr. Neezam Ali, a teacher at the Masjid was accused of raping nine boys between the ages of four and ten years old. But so far there has been no trial and no resolution in the matter.
What all these sexual assault cases have in common is that the perpetrators demonstrate a lack of respect for the laws of the country and for the rights of children. They also proved that while there are laws to protect children from sexual assault, they are not enough.
Swift justice is needed.
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