... As principal Sacked for expelling rape victim
Anthony Mulbah, the math teacher, who earlier denied raping his 14-year-old student at the Grace Heritage International School System is now in police custody and has confessed to having “sexual intercourse” with the student.
Mulbah’s alleged raping of Beatrice came to light when her guardian discovered that she was pregnant — a pregnancy he denied. When Mulbah got informed about the pregnancy, Beatrice said he denied it and claimed that she was lying.
But the school’s founder, Joseph Panto, disclosed that upon Mulbah's arrest, he confessed to the crime of having sexual intercourse with Beatrice whose name has been changed to protect her identity.
“We expelled him from the institution immediately we heard about it and we started looking for him. We placed a call to one of the staff who called and asked him to go and see the girl’s parents to settle the matter,” Panto added. “When he got there, he was arrested and we got the Zone 5 police station in Joe Bar, Community, Paynesville City, involved in the matter.”
When Beatrice mother was contacted, the family declined to speak on grounds that the police is investigating the matter.
Meanwhile, Panto has fired the school’s Acting Principal, Roosevelt Zinnah, for expelling a student who was reportedly raped and impregnated by her math teacher.
Beatrice, who is 14 years of age and a sixth-grader, was expelled from the school on grounds that her presence at the school would be a shame and disgrace, while other students would mock her once seen pregnant.
“The principal told my daughter that she should not come to school because it was disgraceful and shameful and other students will be mocking her,” Beatrice's mother complained.
Zinnah's decision, according to the school founder, Panto, was made from a “morally bankrupt” perspective and intended to silence the 14-year-old victim. Panto described the decision as unnecessary, harsh, and shameful, which made things complicated for Beatrice instead of seeking the protection of her wellbeing.
“We are very sorry for the incident and we condemn the act of that instructor. We are willing to accept the victim to continue her classes until she [gives birth],” said Panto. “I also apologized for the former principal’s decision and we condemn it in the strongest terms. The school has put in place measures to ensure that such an incident does not occur again. We wish it had never happened in the first place. The news has broken us down and we are now taking measures to avoid a repeat of the situation."
Panto noted that the school’s priority now is not just to heal but to also support the victim and her family to ensure that the rape allegation, to which the teacher has finally confessed, is thoroughly investigated by the police and justice is served.
The Grace Heritage International School System founder’s gesture of allowing Beatrice to return to school while pregnant might receive a setback. Students who get pregnant while in school hardly return until they give birth due to fear of being bullied and stigmatized by friends while pregnant.
In Liberia, the Liberia Education law is silent on what should happen to girls who get pregnant while enrolled, leaving school administrators to decide the course of action. A school’s response could be as compassionate as Panto’s or as harsh as that of his ex-principal.
It remains to be seen to what extent the school proprietor would protect Beatrice as she is allowed to continue learning at the school while pregnant. Or how does he intends to shield her from discrimination and bullying, especially when Liberia does not have laws and policies that protect girls’ right to stay in school?
The 14-year-old’s unexpected nightmare came when Mulbah, allegedly took advantage of her trouble with her math lesson. She claimed that he raped her twice on the premises of the school campus on GSA Road, Samuel Dahn Community, Paynesville City. After the rape, Beatrice did not inform her parents or guardians because, according to her, Mulbah threatened to harm her as well as give her a failing mark in the class if she dared tell anyone.
Afraid, she remained mute and kept it a secret, which led him to do it again.
“After school, I was trying to leave but he stopped me and waited for everyone to get outside. He then closed the door, held my mouth, took off my uniform and put me on the desk, and raped me,” Beatrice in an interview with Spoon TV live on Facebook. “I am not good at math, so he said if I refused or reported him; he would not just harm me but also fail me. The raping took place twice on the school campus. The second one was on February 15, and on that day, many students were not on campus. When school came to close for the day, he waited for everybody to leave and then he started rubbing my skin, closed the door, and raped me on the desk again.”
Mulbah’s action is just one of the many cases in which teachers use their power and position to abuse minors sexually instead of protecting them. Individuals aged 17 or younger in Liberia are not legally able to consent to sexual activity, and such activity may result in prosecution for statutory rape or the equivalent local law.
Yet, girls are three times the odds of experiencing transactional sex from teachers who prey on some difficulty they may be having in a particular subject,” according to a research report titled: Sexual Violence of Liberian School-Age Students: An Investigation of Perpetration, Gender, and Forms of Abuse.
Violence against children and adolescents, especially girls, is rampant, including rape, abuse, harassment, and exploitation — UNICEF reports. The UN agency also noted that in 2015, 89 percent of reported rape survivors were children, with 39 percent 12 years or younger — saying sexual harassment in schools in the form of ‘sex for grades’ and ‘sex for school fees’ is common.
Meanwhile, a source from the Women and Children Protection at Zone 5 police station has disclosed that the case has been transferred to Central in Monrovia.