In a concerning development, Midlands State University (MSU) has suspended two lecturers from its Zvishavane campus, Mr Brighton Munaku (31) and Mr Godknows Chera, following allegations of emotional abuse of students, as well as abuse of university resources. The suspensions were initiated after the lecturers received their suspension letters on Friday.
Confirming the receipt of his suspension letter, Mr Munaku spoke to the Sunday News newspaper, revealing that he faced two charges – emotional abuse of students and abuse of university resources. However, Mr Chera claimed that he had not received any suspension letter.
Known for their expertise as Film and Production lecturers in the Department of Media, Communication, Film, and Theatre Arts, their work in this field includes the successful production of the local film “Tsvakai,” directed by Mr Chera and featuring Mr Munaku in a leading role as Dambudzo. The film showcased students from various programs alongside community members.
Unfortunately, amidst the acclaim garnered by “Tsvakai,” allegations of unprofessional conduct have emerged against the two lecturers. Reliable sources close to the matter, speaking to Great Dyke News, claimed that the lecturers made sexual advances towards university students. Disturbingly, within the department, where approximately 15 female students are enrolled, 13 have come forward to register complaints against Mr Munaku and Mr Chera. Due to concerns of discrimination and reprisals, the victims have chosen to remain anonymous.
In addition to the allegations of emotional abuse, the lecturers are also accused of misusing university resources, including departmental media gadgets and other facilities.
This concerning incident comes at a time when the issue of sexual harassment in tertiary education institutions has gained significant attention. Last year, First Lady Dr. Auxillia Mnangagwa expressed her distress over the high prevalence of gender-based violence (GBV) and sexual harassment cases in such institutions. Parliamentary inquiries also shed light on the rampant sexual harassment faced by female students in numerous universities nationwide, with victims often suffering in silence due to fears of academic repercussions.
As a response to these pervasive issues, the Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) and other stakeholders have called upon tertiary colleges to establish formal sexual harassment policies that safeguard the well-being of students and staff members. ZGC’s Chief Executive, Virginia Muwanigwa, emphasized the importance of advocating for a national policy on sexual harassment to curb this problem in higher learning institutions across the country.
The Midlands State University has a policy on sexual harassment, which defines it as any conduct of a sexual nature that includes unwelcome advances, remarks, requests for sexual favours, or any verbal or visual conduct intended to embarrass, humiliate, intimidate, demean, or compromise a reasonable person. The policy outlines various forms of sexual harassment, such as unwanted physical contact, suggestive sexual comments, the display of pornographic material, and the transmission of sexually offensive communications.
The ongoing investigation into the allegations against Mr Munaku and Mr Chera will determine the appropriate actions to be taken by Midlands State University, ensuring a fair and just outcome for all parties involved.