COMMENT: Teacher, student sexual relations are wrong!

Many experts argue that even consensual sexual interactions between students and teachers constitute sexual harassment. The most commonly expressed concern is over whether “mutual consent” can exist in a relationship where there is such a disparity in power between the people involved. Because of this, more and more schools are adopting policies that forbid amorous relationships between students and professors “in the instructional context” even when they are consenting. Dzeich et al write, “Physical intimacy with students is not now and never has been acceptable behaviour for academicians. It cannot be defended or explained away by evoking fantasies of devoted professors and sophisticated students being denied the right to “true love.” Where power differentials exist, there can be no “mutual consent.” In an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, a dean at the University of Texas (US) stated he would like to crack down on consensual relationships between professors and students. “Wait until she graduates,” he tells male professors. “We have a kind of sacred trust to the students,” he explains. “They are coming here to get us to evaluate what their abilities are and what their future could be. These relationships poison the whole academic well,”, according to

The above statement relates to the situation in the country where a number of teachers have been accused of being involved in sexual relations with learners. The situation plays out at both secondary and tertiary levels. While education authorities have maintained that such relations are unwelcome and could lead to disciplinary action against the culprits, the trend has continued unabated. However, such relations should be dismissed with the contempt they deserve because teachers assume the role of loco parents to learners when they are at school.

We refer to a story that we published recently where a Mzilikazi High School teacher in Bulawayo confirmed in court that he was in a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student. The teacher, however, escaped jail after he was cleared of rape charges, but what remains a bitter pill to swallow is that he confessed to having a sexual relationship with a student and having sexual intercourse with her in the school premises. 

The court heard that the teacher in question would tap the student on some occasions. However, the student never reported these incidents to either the school authorities or the police.

 The court further heard that the student frequently visited the teacher in his storeroom, even though he was not teaching her any subjects she was learning at the school. The court also concurred with his defence that when the student visited his office, they would engage in sex and they were lovers.

Nonetheless, we believe such behaviour must not be tolerated, and teachers must remain professional and treat learners like their own children, as they have been given the role of being loco parents to learners by virtue of entering the teaching profession.



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