Sexual abuse of learners by teachers in Namibia: An exploratory case study
Dippenaar (née Fourie), Susanchen M.
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The sexual abuse of learners by teachers (LSA) has been under recognised and understudied. This research set out to explore the intrapersonal, interpersonal and institutional dynamics and reactions related to LSA in Namibia. It was hypothesised that the survivor, her primary caretakers, the perpetrator and every educator involved, will have an influence on and/or be influenced by the occurrence of LSA. It was thought necessary to contextualise the phenomenon within the school setting, the policy environment and socio-economic background. I hoped that such a study would enhance understanding, and as such contribute to educational change. Research which aims to uncover personal meaning-making and hear the voice of participants already suggests that the qualitative paradigm would be suitable. "The advantages of qualitative portrayals of holistic settings and impacts is that greater attention can be given to nuance, setting, interdependencies, complexities, idiosyncrasies, and context" (Patton, 1990: 51). An exploratory case study was conducted in Namibia between September 2000 and October 2002. Thirteen participants from different socio-economic strata and subgroups participated. The data corpus also included eighteen policy documents of international or national reference, ten case-specific documents and five letters from archival files. To capture the tapestry of LSA accurately and holistically from the perspectives of every one of the role players, an in-depth analysis was necessary. The research uncovered that a school is by its interactive character and hierarchical constellation an ideal setting for LSA. It was found that educators, a survivor and his/her parents may, unwittingly and unwillingly, accommodate LSA: disempowered by the modus operandi of a perpetrator and blinded by the pastoral myth. Intrapersonal distress, fears and confusion led interpersonal and institutional (defensive) coping mechanisms. The coping mechanisms applied by one role player, rendered another ignorant, immobilised and/or disempowered - affirming the concepts of patterned relationships and circularity. Being allegedly homosexual child abuse, apparently perpetrated by a female, the case study was a "highly unusual manifestation" (Creswell, 1998: 119) of the phenomenon. This added value to the research. It was found that social conceptions ('females don't'), cultural practices (the othermother tradition) and added defences (abnormalisation), silence survivors, incapacitate protectors and perpetuate female perpetration. The research also challenges the research community to reinvestigate the proclaimed parameters of CSA. This research is first and foremost "forensically relevant research" (Myers, 1993: 573). It has shown how LSA happens, why role players accommodate LSA and through the research methodology established which investigative approaches might aid sustained disclosure and enhance truth-telling.