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500 teachers fired in Kenya for sexual misconduct

By Journalist Lillian Leposo, For CNN
  • Charges are being pursued against some of the teachers
  • One official says parents are being bribed to drop the charges
  • The chair of the Teachers Service Commission says it's a wider societal problem

Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) -- More than 500 teachers have been fired in the past year in Kenya following reports of professional misconduct that included flirting and sexual acts with students, including impregnating some young girls, the chairman of the Teachers Service Commission said this week.

Chairman Ibrahim Hussein said that while the commission is only mandated to deal with disciplinary matters among its members, it is also pursuing criminal proceedings against the dismissed teachers.

"So far we have managed to get 30 cases to court with the help of the police and the children's department," he said.

But Musau Ndunda, secretary general of Kenya National Association of Parents (KNAP), told CNN that though some cases had reached the courts, no prosecutions were taking place.

"Most of these children come from poor families and the parents are bribed, sometimes for as little as $10, to drop the case," he said.

Ndunda blamed the government and the TSC for the inappropriate teacher conduct, because there was previously no policy framework to guide the teacher-student relationship.

"In rural areas you will find a student cooking and fetching water for a teacher in his home," he said. "This makes it easy for her to be defiled."

Ndunda said that the youngest pregnant student who had come to him for help was 14 years old but he had been told of students as young as 12 being defiled by their teacher.

The KNAP came up with 28 recommendations earlier this year to help define and govern teacher-student relations.

"Some of these include outlawing students from entering teacher's quarters, banning of evening extra-tutoring classes and regulating the number of male teachers in a girls' school," said Ndunda.

In April, the TSC -- which handles the hiring, promotion and discipline of teachers -- issued a memo to all teachers and other education officials emphasizing its guidelines.

"The commission is concerned with the increasing cases of violence (physical, psychological and sexual) against pupils/students and recognizes that it is a violation of their human rights wherever it occurs - in their homes, educational institutions, communities and places of care," the memo said.

It defined sexual abuse by teachers as "sexual intercourse, sexual assault, touching of a pupil/student's body which is of a sexual nature, any suggestive language or gesture, any form of

inducement, threats or violence to force them to engage in sexual intercourse, exposing pornographic material or any form of flirtation with or without consent."

The commission said that the "sending of pupils/students to teachers' houses for any reason

whatsoever is prohibited," and that no teacher "shall induce, coerce, threaten or intimidate a pupil/student in any way and particularly in regard to their academic performance, in order to have sexual relations with that pupil/student."

Hussein pushed back on the criticism of the TSC, saying the problem of child sexual abuse was a societal one.

"Kenya has over 200,000 teachers, so 500 teachers being implicated in sexual offenses looks very small, but it is an offense that should not be taking place at all," he said. "But we need everyone on board" to tackle the problem.