Mary Muyunda, "The school should be a safe place for all the pupils"

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

In a landmark ruling on 15 July, the High Court in Lusaka, capital of Zambia, ordered the government to pay about US$13,000 compensation to a 15-year-old school girl raped by her class teacher. Mary Muyunda* brought a civil action against the teacher, the school and the minister of education.

The judge also ordered that the Director of Public Prosecutions commence criminal proceedings against the teacher, as the evidence of rape was "overwhelming". The teacher was arrested, but subsequently released on bail. Mary Muyunda*, often breaking down with emotion, told IRIN her story.

"I have been very much disturbed; emotionally disturbed and very much stressed. I am trying very hard to forget how it happened, but I am failing. I can't just forget it; it's like it's just about to happen again, like it's just happening. I remember everything, every detail.

"I am still hurting. I cry always when I remember criticism from people. They would come and say things like, 'It never happened, you are lying'; things like that.

"It started when I asked for some past [examination] papers from my teacher. When I asked him [about the papers], he asked me to go and collect them from [his] home. That is when everything happened.

"What happened was wrong; it shouldn't happen, it shouldn't be accepted. The school should be a safe place for all the pupils; such things shouldn't be happening at school.

"I have heard many stories of pupils who are raped by teachers, but I never knew it could happen to me. I think the school is not a safe place for pupils anymore.

"But I think if measures are taken, schools can be safe places. But it's, like, they [the authorities] haven't started taking such measures to make a school a safe place.

"I was hurting [after the rape], I was very emotionally stressed. I was not myself, I would cry a lot. So, I told my other teacher about it. He advised me to tell someone - I needed to come out [in the open].

"I think it has made me to be a strong girl. I am a hero to some people; they always tell me that I am a hero.

"I see that teacher [who raped me] is still around, but he is not coming to teach. I think he has been fired.

"I went to hospital, I was found with [a sexually transmitted infection] - I can't talk about that - but not HIV.

"I think my advice to other pupils - if they find themselves in such a situation - I think it's better to tell someone."

*Not her real name