When I came to this school four years ago, the teachers showed us respect for one month. They saw us as students, as children. We learned a lot. Then everything changed. The teachers started to grope me, saying, ‘If you don’t come to my bedroom, you won’t be able to sit your first important exam.’ I was fourteen then.
There were lots of girls who felt forced to let the teachers do these things to them in order to pass their exams and get good grades. When we have our final exams, it becomes even more obvious. Lots of us are nervous and sit up late in the dormitories, studying. Then the teachers often come in and say, ‘Come to my room and I’ll make sure you pass your exams.’
Girls who sleep with teachers get good grades and pass their exams no problem. The girls who don’t get bad grades, don’t pass their exams, and have to repeat the year.
The teachers approach those of us who live at the boarding school because we are poor. The teachers don’t only offer good grades in return for sex, they also offer good food and money. Teachers can come in whenever they want and take girls to their bedrooms. We never feel safe.
Many of the girls get pregnant. Then the teachers take them to hospital and make them have abortions. Sometimes the teachers give the girls some kind of medicine to make the baby come out. When the girls come back to school they are often ill because the foetus has not come out yet.
Exploiting poor girls
Even the guards at the school gates exploit the girls. If you get back to school a little too late in the evening at the weekends, they say, ‘If you don’t sleep with me I’ll tell the teachers you were late, and you’ll be thrown out of school straight away.’
One girl went for an evening stroll with her boyfriend and she wasn’t allowed back in until she agreed to sleep with the guard. This mostly happens to girls from poor families who have no power. Everyone knows that poor families have to make huge sacrifices for their children to be able to go to school. These things don’t happen to girls from richer families.
We girls don’t dare to stand up to the teachers and say no. One of the most important tasks for us Child Rights Ambassadors is to empower girls to fight for our rights. The World’s Children’s Prize has boosted our confidence and helped us to deal with a lot of our fears. Fatima, 17, WCP Child Rights Ambassador, Mozambique