Bulawayo– Sexual harassment tops as one of the major challenges faced by students doing internship, it has emerged.
Traditionally it was believed that women are the only victims of this predicament but during an iLEAD work preparedness training held at Lupane State University (LSU) recently, it came to light that men can be victims as well.
iLEAD training facilitator, Natasha Marara, explained how the dynamics of this problem have changed saying sexual harassment can be perpetrated by men towards other men, women towards other women, men towards women or vice versa.
“It has come to my understanding that it’s not only female students who suffer sexual abuses but also males. This can be coming from other male workmates or from their female counterparts,” Marara said.
She added that her consultancy company seeks to prepare students going for attachment for such and other situations they might find themselves.
“If you come across such a situation, don’t hesitate to report it to your superiors or better still come back to your lecturers and supervisors. They know how best to deal with these kind of things,” Natasha told the students.
LSU Dean of Students in the Faculty of Commerce, Mr C. Mpala, weighed in saying they receive complaints of sexual abuses from students on attachment on a regular basis.
Dean Mpala also told students that they should not be found on the wrong side in cases of sexual harassment.
“Some of our students have been found guilty as perpetrators. We know everyone wants to get married but as a student you shouldn’t force it on your married boss or any other workmate for that matter.”
“Believe me we have received some cases where students are accused of this and it doesn’t end well. It has severe consequences so please don’t do it,” Dean Mpala said.
He also told this publication that LSU prioritises the well-being and security of the student as well as the welfare of the relationship between the institution and other stakeholders hence the need for work-readiness trainings.
“We hold these seminars to prepare our students for the inevitable. They will meet challenges out there and we also want to prepare them for the employer. The training is for the benefit of the student and the employer so that either way both parties win.”
“From what we gather from the industry, Lupane students are doing well. We rarely have negative comments about our students so we want to keep that image as well,” he said.
iLEAD Consultancy works with local institutions in equipping students going for attachment and pre-interns and conscientising them of the work environment before employment.
The Consultancy trains students on how to put together professional resumes, gives them interview tips, dressing and business etiquette among other skills.
Marara said the idea is to bridge the gap between tertiary institutions and the industry.
“I saw a gap between institutions of learning and the industry, some of these young people struggle to express themselves fully in the work-space because of various reasons. I noticed their lack of communication skills and confidence,” she said, adding:
“Some struggle to perform tasks because they are scared to ask. I also asked a couple of friends who are in management what issues they had observed in their interns and they raised the same concerns I have mentioned.”
Marara also said another driving force behind these trainings is the passion to see young people “come out of their shells” to achieve their dreams and this she believes will be achieved through the iLEAD program.
A part four LSU student, Slibaziso Hlangabeza, commended the program saying it will go a long way in equipping students with pre-requisite skills needed in a working environment.
She gave a testimonial of her experience as an attachee where she witnessed some students being sexually harassed, exploited and looked down upon.
“The only way to survive is through being soft but firm. Be soft in how you relate with your workmates but firm when it comes to protecting yourself and your dreams,” Hlangabeza said.
She added that, “I think this program will help students understand the aspect of organisational politics in terms of networking, building relationships and boundaries at work.”