The JHR Student Chapter in Liberia organized a forum on “sexual exploitation” at the Muslim Congress High School in Monrovia. Around 200 students, boys and girls, attended the two-hour event in which they were able to see performances, talk, and ask questions about the issue openly.
The students prepared a short drama with scenarios that exposed sexual exploitation at school. The teenagers tuned in with some of the scenarios. Even though the term “exploitation” was not clear to them, the reality of a school teacher crossing the boundaries was widely understood by all.
The scene where an ill-intended teacher persuades a young girl to have sex in exchange for better grades was portrayed by students who looked overwhelmed and embarrassed by the nervous laughs of all in the auditorium.
“Sex for grades” at schools and universities is a recurrent problem in the education system in Liberia. It has been widely documented by the media and because of the extensive coverage, some schools have adopted certain measures to deter such problem; however, it is far from being solved.
The most asked question from students was: Who do I report if something like that happens to me? Fear of reporting or not having an outlet to address the issue in confidence tends to deter students from speaking out in many instances. If there are no mechanisms in place at schools, then where would they go to seek assistance?
The ten-minute drama also exposed the lack of police assistance in the matter. You may think that if the school does not have the right mechanisms to deal with cases of sexual exploitation the police might, but this is not necessary the case.
The purpose of this forum was to encourage students to talk about this issue openly in the presence of teachers in order to come up with suggestions that would help to prevent sexual exploitation at the school.
As the event ends with teachers and parents thanking JHR for allowing students to talk about the matter and to come up with suggestions on their own, I leave the auditorium wondering about those kids whose dignity was violated for the right to an education.