Gender-based violence on campuses threatens competent graduates.
This is according to the Higher Education and Training HIV/Aids (HEAIDS) programme chief executive officer, Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia.
HEAIDS is programme led by the department of higher education and training in partnership with more than 400 universities and colleges to ensure health and wellness of students.
An issue that has been a persisting concern is gender-based violence, something the programme wants to address on campuses.
“We need to have competent graduates within our institutions and we cannot let gender-based violence affect our graduate competency,” said Ahluwalia.
He said education was key to preventing new cases of gender-based violence at higher education institutions.
“Education is transformation; we need to educate our communities – through media, through social media, through classrooms, through peer-to-peer [interaction]. Everything else depends on education,” he said.
He said what was mainly needed in universities and colleges was a peer-to-peer education around gender-based violence, which can be done with or without political heads.
“We need to engage gender-based violence like the way we did HIV/Aids in higher education, we led a very strong peer-to-peer movement within South Africa,” said Ahluwalia.
HEAIDS hosted an imbizo at Tshwane North College in Mamelodi on Monday and aims to do more imbizos in various other institutions of higher learning as they launch a gender-based policy framework to be issued for public comment.
Ahluwalia said this policy has been compiled to tackle gender-based violence on campuses.
The programme has plans to implements the following strategy on higher education campuses:
• A development campaign around preventing new cases of gender-based violence;
• Peer-to-peer education and campus-based activations and dialogues for preventative and emergency-management purposes;
• A nationwide prevention campaign, focusing on education and awareness;
• Psychosocial and medical support for survivors of gender-based violence;
• Sessions and forums focused on men, and how men can prevent new gender-based violence;
• In and out-of-classroom training as well as capacity development for staff and;
• A safety campus audit across campuses to improve safety.
He added that the prevention of new cases of gender-based violence is not up to women.
“Men have to take charge towards preventing rape among women. So we have to engage,” he said.
As part of the strategic interventions Ahluwalia said the efficiency of campus security also needed to be looked at.
“Sometimes the campus security is perpetrators of gender-based violence, so we need to make sure that the management is accountable when we talk about gender-based violence.”
He said academic staff and support staff needed to be trained to prevent victimisation and acknowledge a need for a disciplinary tribunal.
“The only way we can prevent victimisation is that once the survivor sees justice then more and more people will then believe in us and more people will come and report gender-based violence once they know there’s action.”
He added that higher education institutions and parents have a role to play in preventing gender-based violence.
“I’m going to appeal to parents to please talk to their children in universities and colleges about gender-based violence, to tell them it’s not acceptable,” said Ahluwalia.
Ahluwalia said it is important for policymakers to be present at these imbizos so they can have the knowledge of the experiences of students on the ground.