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December 15, 2023

Sexual harassment in schools: Presidency to establish Students Complaint Unit

Sexual harassment in schools: Presidency to establish Students Complaint Unit

As students donate pens to Tinubu, seek assent to sexual harassment bill before him

By Joseph Erunke, Abuja

The Presidency says it will soon establish what it referred to as the “Students Complaint Unit” as a channel for students facing sexual harassment in tertiary institutions to forward direct complaints to.

Describing the rate of sexual harassment issues in schools across the country, especially at tertiary level, as disturbing, it appealed to those facing the challenges to forward direct reports to the unit when unveiled.

The disclosure came on the heels of presentation of pens gathered from students across tertiary institutions in the country to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to facilitate the signing of the Sexual Harassment Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal Bill in Tertiary Institutions into law.

Recall that the bill, which had suffered setbacks in the hands of previous National Assembly, was reintroduced and successfully passed by the House of Representatives and Senate this year.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Student Engagements, Sunday Asefon, while receiving the pens from student representatives in Abuja on Friday, said his office would soon unveil the students’ complaint unit.

The presentation was the culmination of a 16-day activity tagged “Donate a pen to Mr President Campaign,” organised by Nigerian students in partnership with Gender Mobile Initiative, a non-governmental organization committed to complementing the government’s efforts in addressing sexual and gender-based violence, particularly in educational settings.

Regretting that some female students facing sexual harassment were afraid to report to authorities, he said, “I also want to use this medium to announce to you that soon, my office will be unveiling the Student Complaint Unit.

“There will be a website. The unit is all about complaints from students. You don’t need to know me, and I don’t need to know you. Once you have an issue of sexual harassment or sex for marks from the lecturers or oppressors, all you need to do is report through the website, which we shall provide, and we will take it up from there.”

Assuring the students that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu would not only sign the bill but also continue to address students’ issues, he said steps towards passing the bill on gender violence have been ongoing.

“This bill, to my knowledge, is receiving attention from the Presidency because of the love and passion our president, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has for Nigerian students.

“He is a lover of education, and because of his love and passion for education, one of the first bills he signed on assumption of office as president was the Students’ Loan Bill. Ever since he has been doing the best within his ambit to ensure that things go well with Nigerian students on all our campuses.

“I am sure you are aware that just a few days ago, Mr President removed all our tertiary institutions from IPPIS. I am also sure that you are aware that the same Mr President has also stopped the 40 per cent remittances from the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of our tertiary institutions of learning.

“I received your message to the president in good faith, and I can assure you that I am going to deliver your message to Mr President, and I can assure you that Mr President, who is our father, will do the needful,” he said.

He added, “We have had instances where some students were harassed but lacked the boldness to report, and in some cases where the report is made, nothing would be done, probably because of the accuser’s connection to the head of the institution. This must stop. This bill seeks to address that. The president would do everything to protect Nigerian students, especially girls, from sexual harassment. His government has put everything in place to protect Nigerian students on our campuses and outside.

“Let me say this: my office will collaborate with stakeholders to renew the fight against sexual harassment and sex for marks on all our campuses.”

Earlier, Omowumi Ogunrotimi, Lead Director, Gender Mobile Initiative, expressed happiness that the Sexual Harassment Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal Bill in Tertiary Institutions, which faced challenges during its introduction to the national assembly in 2016, was successfully passed by the House of Representatives and Senate this year.

“We commend the National Assembly’s effort in transmitting the bill to the President’s desk for assent as constitutionally required. Sadly, this bill has lingered on the president’s desk for some time, a delay reportedly attributed to a shortage of pens.

“In response to this, Nigerian students, in partnership with the Gender Mobile Initiative, launched the “#DonateAPenToMrPresident Campaign.” Across campuses nationwide with the aim of contributing pens, I urge Mr. President to sign the bill promptly, thereby safeguarding students in educational institutions.

She explained that the presentation of pens was “a symbol of our collective power to end sexual harassment in environments of learning.”