Shrinking Civic Spaces and Institutions of Higher Learning

Students in institutions of higher learning go through various rights violations.These range from silencing of vocal students through suspensions and in extreme cases expulsions, other challenges that inhibit the enjoyment of the right to education include missing marks , intimidation by lecturers and other university staff and there are also incidences of sexual exploitation more so among female students .

Many students suffer in silence because they do not want to endanger their graduation and end up wasting time spent in school.Others suffer from mental health issues and may lack safe spaces to express what they are going through.The extent of mental health challenges among university students is evidenced by cases of depression , substance abuse and in some cases suicidal tendencies.The inability to cope with the pressures of life, learning and unstable sources of income also add to an already vulnerable situation.

For students who come in conflict with the law, many lack legal representation and are stigmatised by friends and family for “failing the family” expectations by getting into conflict with the justice system.Ostracised by family , some turn to drugs and other substances to cope with the societal rejection.

Against this backdrop, Haki Nawiri Afrika is implementing a pilot project to address shrinking civic spaces amongst university students by bringing students and community members together to discuss human rights , discuss how to address human rights violations , enhance capacities on how to demand and defend and build their capacity on paralegalism to enable them have basic legal skills including how to navigate the justice system.

With the human rights training , students are commenting that they have learnt to appreciate human rights , they have a changed attitude towards activism and are willing to address some human rights violations at the community level.The initiative is also bridging the gaps between university students and communities by bringing them together for dialogue and collaborative networking.

Leonida Odongo

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Yes sexual exploitation among female students is common in our higher learning institutions in Africa.