Higher Education strives to protect students' lives

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

With gender-based violence, including murder and rape, rearing its ugly head on campuses, the Department of Higher Education and Training is taking steps to protect students.

The Higher Education and Training, Health, Wellness and Development Centre is set develop and implement a comprehensive prevention, care and support gender-based violence (GBV) programme at the universities and colleges across the country.

Addressing the GBV imbizo held at Coastal TVET College in Umlazi campus, the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Buti Manamela, said GBV is prevalent in the country’s higher education sector, and that Youth Month will be dedicated to GBV.

The imbizo was a build up to the launch of the GBV Policy and Strategy Framework that the Higher Education and Training HIV-Aids programme (HEAids) Centre has been leading.

“In addition to the Women’s Empowerment Programme that HEAids facilitates as part of its programme offerings, I have requested that GBV be elevated to receive particular attention in the coming months to ensure that in addition to the policy and strategy finalisation, we have visible and strong programmes at our sites.

“This will mean that university and college leadership and staff at all levels will be called on to support this process. Sister government departments and development agencies, such as United Nations Women, have been visible in their support of the development of the policy framework and I wish to call on others to support the work, as this is clearly not our problem alone,” Manamela said.

Almost 40% students feel unsafe on campus 

According to the latest HEAids Prevalence Survey, almost 39% of students and 60% of staff feel unsafe on campus. Sixty-two percent felt that female students would be sexually harassed at their higher education institution.

The survey also showed that male dominance was supported by male students and accepted by females.

The survey further showed that 28% of males and 27% of females, aged between 15 and 19 believed that a girl did not have the right to refuse sex with her boyfriend, while 55% of males and 54% of females thought that “sexual violence does not include forcing sex with someone you know”.

Manamela, who also observed a moment of silence for Zolile Khumalo and Jabulile Nhlapo‚ female students who were both shot and killed on campus, allegedly by their ex-boyfriends last month, encouraged survivors of gender-based and sexual violence to speak out.

Khumalo, a Mangosuthu University of Technology student, was murdered at the institution’s residence and Nhlapo‚ a University of South Africa student, was killed at a commune in Vanderbjilpark.

‘’We know that one of the most common forms of gender-based violence in the higher education sector is sexual harassment of staff and students. We are here to encourage and support survivors of gender-based and sexual violence to speak out and to make them aware that you don’t have to come out publicly but that there are channels opened for you to make sure that you do not suffer in silence,” the Deputy Minister said.

Gender based violence victims can call the toll free number on 0800 428 428 (0800 GBV GBV) and will be able to speak to a social worker for assistance and counselling. Callers can also request a social worker from the command centre to contact them by dialling *120*7867# (free) from a cell phone. – SAnews.gov.za