The Persistence Of Sexual Harassment In Cameroonian Universities: Contribution To An Anthropology Of School Violence

July 22, 2020 10:00 PM

Written by Aliou Adjia Brice Hervé

Ph.D. Student in Political Science, Faculty of Law and Political Sciences, University of Ngaoundéré (Cameroon)



The debate on the suspicious relationships between university lecturers and their students is of actuality today, there is an ever-increasing interest manifested through numerous interdisciplinary researches carried out in order to show the situation in Cameroon today.  In the context of economic and social crises, this text affirms that harassments exist in the Cameroonian school and university milieus today; even if it is uncertain and most often concealed. The article aims at putting into perspective the contemporary anthropological perspective that observes and analyzes behaviors of the Cameroonian education community. In addition, through the combination of identical representations, the socio-economic context and daily cultural practices, evaluate the actual situation. From the definition of harassment, the forms of school and non-school violence ponder on sexual harassment in the Cameroonian universities and propose the way out.


Keywords: harassment, educational system, school violence and educational relationship


In his book entitled La philosophie de l’éducation, Olivier Reboul (2001) thinks that philosophy is a question. For this author, this science radically challenges everything we believe we know in the complex field of Education. Our research on harassment echoes this reflection. Because, while education systems have as main objective to allow socialization by mastering impulses and developing potentialities and human values, in Cameroon, there is a resurgence of incivilities in and around school. However, most of the malfunctions of the Cameroonian education system remain taboo. On the one hand, no one can imagine that a teacher responsible for transmitting knowledge, recognized by his peers, can engage in reprehensible behavior. On the other hand, how can women (the main victims of these acts) engaged in higher education, aware of their rights, allow themselves to be done ? Would politicians and education professionals be complicit in daily violence ?


Evoking harassment causes astonishment, excitement and curiosity. The Cameroonian school is one of the various facts of the newspapers. However, the analysis of the facts related to harassment refers to the social, economic and political dimensions. To talk about sexual harassment, it is necessary to cross several points of view. This research is structured around four poles: a presentation of an educational context marked by a multifaceted crisis, an observation to try to understand, an analytical work based on multidisciplinary reflection related to the object of sexual harassment in academia and suggestions for a remedy. The analysis model aims to describe the phenomenon from argumentative discourses produced by the actors of the educational community.


The methodology of analysis allows a better understanding of violence at school based on the testimonies of the actors and by direct observation. We made direct observations at the University of Yaoundé I, following the noisy denunciations that incriminated a teacher of magisterial rank at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Yaoundé. Data collection is therefore the result of observations, in-depth individual interviews with all actors in the academic community. Two hundred (200) participants took part in the research. The high number of respondents was intended to solve the problem of the very validity of this research. However, while the information collected was redundant, it was equally convergent. The two hundred students of the University of Yaounde I were between the ages of 17 and 25, and their level of Education ranged from the first to the fifth level of Education. Through a focus group strategy from an interactionist perspective, participants expressed the manifestations of harassment. Teachers were actually interviewed, as some (during the pre-survey) also claimed to be victims of harassment by their colleagues or students. Case studies were then required. In short, an opinion survey method for the research object proved to be indispensable. We used the qualitative method to better capture and highlight the perception, representations and issues of the phenomenon. In addition, direct and semi-participatory observation was used.

The objective was to read from the inside and in depth the statements about the behaviors described or presented. The extraction of the data was based on an analysis plan developed, in accordance with the questions and objectives pursued and following the technique of content analysis. The data were organized by theme in order to facilitate their reading. It should also be noted that the informants have been renamed for ethical issues related to the sensitivity of the subject. Only those who have agreed to be summoned will be the subject of genuine appointment throughout this article.


In addition, the anthropological approach is characterized by its holisticity, we have not concealed the harassment of teachers towards their colleagues or the violence that students exert on teachers. The techniques of students to make teachers their lovers, we were particularly interested.


The school became democratized in Cameroon. The guidance Act[i] encourages learners to promote their culture and open themselves to the world. Free and mixed basic education is effective, even if there are reservations on the ground. The challenge was to address the disparities observed here and there and to correct social inequalities. Parents and students are obsessed with school success and are willing to do anything to achieve their goals. But in the Cameroonian school, there is a high degree of incivilities peculiar to a society where impunity is progressing and becoming more and more the rule. In this regard, V. nga Ndongo (1993 :207) states that :

the Cameroonian mentality unfolds through a permanent aggressiveness that has as concrete manifestations the gratuitous or interested disclosure, The Will for power of those who have a share of power, the arrogance of the new rich, the unbridled boldness of the people assured of strong protections (here called “umbrellas” or ” godasses “) and who, therefore, defy the hierarchy. All this leads to an anomalous situation and a relaxation of collective pressure, resulting in a marked indiscipline, the weakening of the norm and social hierarchy, the establishment of a real social jungle where force prevails over the law. Society is not far from being compared to a Thelema Abbey where everyone does what he pleases, with the complicity of his fellow men or against the Will and interests of them.


The point of view of this sociologist shows us that the school in Cameroon has become, the mirror of a society in moral drift, where the educational system remains centralized. Young people from precarious backgrounds who feel marginalized, show their discontent by swapping into groups of awacheur[ii]s who harass students around schools. The social mission that E. Durkheim (1985 :51) assigned to the school is no longer relevant. He said that the school:

aims to foster and develop in the child a number of physical, intellectual and moral states that demand from him, and the political society as a whole, and the special environment to which he is particularly destined.

Teachers in charge of animating the educational environment complain about their precarious living conditions and their profession is sometimes reduced to the mere transmission of knowledge. They are often poorly paid, poorly trained, poorly considered, poorly equipped and are aimed at poor and culturally weak students, but wanting to succeed by all means. The quality of life of these teachers seems to depend on their ability to manage their attitudes and feelings. In Cameroon, teachers express their discomfort on a daily basis. Their status is devalued. This depreciation is the result of a poor perception of the economic usefulness of the education system, which is seen as an item of expenditure and not a long-term investment.


Adolescents in puberty demand autonomy and seek identity and self-recognition (Dolto, 2001). There is an identity crisis in secondary and especially higher education. Young people who are considered immature in this context rebel and want to manage their feelings and frustrations alone. At university, they take advantage of spaces of freedom and join peer groups that become a refuge. But these young people are unmotivated. They lose the sense of social belonging in the face of a fragmented society where inequality of opportunity perpetuates the imbalances and benefits of those who already have the minimum (Bourdieu, 1970). Lack of work and precariousness in the environment are frustrating factors. Anxious and without social companions or guardians, they depress. They live in an environment where you can only succeed with godparents. The rising unemployment rate increases the stress of school success.

In Cameroon, a participant observation of the educational environment makes us realize that the intimate relationships that maintain teachers and students are formalized. Expressions such as “sexually transmitted Notes” or “sexually transmitted averages”, are known to everyone. Abuse of power and harassment are visible.


Harassment is criminal conduct related to violence in general. The concept is polysemic. In its definitions, the ideas of aggression, repetition, abuse of power or violence in subordination return. However, violence cannot be considered an anthropological concept because, where jurists see the crime in terms of the texts of laws, the anthropologist speaks of the transgression of the particular norms of each social group. In some settings, violence is the norm. The Rebel is adored. Similarly, some teachers became famous because they reviewed all the beautiful girls of the school. Others more reserved, were adorned with indicative nicknames like: powerless, achagacha [ugly], mougou [weak] … it is a depreciative language arsenal leading to an inversion to the norm that can cause some to want to do like others, but using the means that are their own.


The stalker lacks moral sense. His goal is to reduce the other to nothing, because for him, he does not exist as a human. A teacher who fails to enter into real communication with a student will not be able to separate what is good for her from what is not. He can not seduce the student and have relationships because, he is not very confident of himself. He’s a giant with clay feet. Harassment is therefore a submission request made by the harasser to the harassed. In fact, the stalker is lacking in autonomy or believes he is. The situation of harassment is abnormal, anomalous and conflictual, with no serious reason commensurate with the consequences. Everything seems excessive, exaggerated, excessive. Reason no longer intervenes, everything becomes emotional. A thorough analysis recognizes that the harasser uses methods such as lying, vulgarity, denigration, or exclusion.

Sexual harassment in higher education is a known phenomenon (J. E. Pondi, 2011). The facts are quite serious. These are verbal abuse, comments about privacy, remarks about the body, veiled or explicit sexual proposals. But in the absence of quantitative surveys, it is difficult to understand the magnitude of the phenomenon in Cameroonian universities. There are no accounts of complaints filed with university rectors. For fear of reprisals, a kind of omerta settles for the benefit of stalkers. By the way, a teacher who harasses can be judged only by peers, co-workers. In a University where everyone knows each other, it is difficult to guarantee neutrality and impartiality. However, a beginning of reform is looming. The Ministry of Higher Education of Cameroon wants to propose a law initiated by the anti-corruption cell. In this register, the story of Celine, former student of the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Yaoundé and young teacher in a high school of the place, is revealing of the state of mind of the harassers :

While I was in the 5th grade at ENS, I had a teacher I felt coming … he was my memory manager. But apparently, he didn’t have the guts to hit on me. One day I meet him by chance in the hallways of the school. He tells me to stop by his desk for the latest fixes to my output memory. After a real Ant work, he left his chair in front of me and took a seat next to me. He looked at me and put his hand on my thigh. I was petrified, I was trembling … I didn’t even dare to look at him, my eyes were down on my memory. Then, without saying anything, he put his hand on my breasts. When I got up, he said to me : “my daughter, You know I like you, I’m just a man, do not look at me like that ! “I went out. From that day on, he was no longer in charge of my work ! On defense day, he let me go ! He said in public and in front of my parents that I was a pretentious, a proud woman who worked alone ! The guy took me down ! [He humiliated me]. He contradicted everything ! I’ve been mentioned pity ! [Passable]


While it is difficult to give an exact definition, sexual harassment means that someone interferes with you by saying inappropriate things of a sexual nature or by disturbing you by inappropriate gestures, such as remarks about your physique or personal life. Sometimes these reviews look like compliments, but they put you in an uncomfortable situation. The Toronto Harassment Support Group[iii] says that sexual harassment is an unwanted sexual advance, a request for sexual favors or other conduct of a verbal or physical sexual nature. Although sexual harassment can also occur to men, or between people of the same sex, the term applies to actions most often by men towards women. Examples of harassment include :

  • touching inappropriately.
  • making inappropriate jokes or remarks.
  • making sexual requests or suggestions.
  • fix the person or make unwanted comments about his or her body.
  • display sexually offensive images.
  • make sexist remarks.

In short, sexual harassment is usually based on the dynamics of power and control. Sexual harassment is not mutual flirting, teasing or joking, or physical affection between friends or consensual sexual interaction. To better elucidate this complex concept, direct observation of the facts on the ground is necessary.

Theory of the mind (Theory Of The mind by Sutton et al, 1999) helps to understand that an abuser can predict the emotions of others, predict their behaviors and manipulate them. That of social contagion is based on the assumption that deviant behaviors spread in a neighborhood through imitation of patterns. However, before questioning what drives harassment, we will try to define this polysemic concept because not all members of the academic community perceive the phenomenon in the same way. Life stories are therefore necessary and the results of a questionnaire can edify us.


This questionnaire is based on the conflicting relationship between teachers and teachers. It helps to understand the factors of sexual harassment in Cameroonian schools and universities. However, direct interviews with students and students have been richer, as they help to understand the representations of members of the educational community. All these results can then make it possible to propose palliatives to this phenomenon whose causes are multiple.


These include socio-economic, family and individual factors. Cameroonian society is experiencing a visible economic and social crisis. Young people, members of the educational community, are hopeless nowadays. Unemployment is on the rise. This is resourcefulness and impunity. Teachers and their students feel they are victims of a system that does not promote equal opportunities. If the former externalize themselves by plunging into immorality, the latter become scapegoats or scapegoats who, wanting at all costs to succeed, agree, in spite of themselves, to play the game. The media (TV serials) praise the competition by all means. We look for the note, and we accept blackmail from the teacher.

The role of the family, as the first agent of socialization, has evolved with its new structure. Single-parent families, recomposed families or nuclear families took precedence over the larger extended family (the nda bot in the Beti) which allowed the assimilation of appropriate cultural values. For P. F. Edongo Ntede (2010: 197),


the resignation of parents from their educational responsibilities leaves young people to themselves, without guidance or support, without a compass for life, with a freedom that they do not know what to do, in a sad moral state that does not facilitate the taking of responsibilities and the duty to fully assume.

Finally, the student’s personality can be a cause of harassment. Abandoned by parents, he sometimes fails to communicate and takes refuge in peers who complete his socialization. Hence an ethno-anthropological question because, according to M. Alliot (1983: 90),

If there is a common trait among all societies, it is good that each builds its own mental universe, carrying fundamental models and giving meaning, as revealed by the visible and invisible worldview of each of its members, its vision of peoples, of its society, of the groups to which it belongs or with which it is connected and its vision of itself. Each partial vision returns and illuminates them.



In our cultures, the concept of “harassment” almost does not exist. In the Central, Southern, Eastern and coastal regions in particular, this notion has no equivalence in spoken languages. Rape, incest and adultery are known and reprimanded with the greatest energy. Generally, in these sociocultural, the woman is made to be loved, flirted, courted. We run and we go after a beautiful woman. It is said, moreover, that a normal man blunders like a goat, that is, he is reckless and always returns to the charge, despite the rejection or the first ” No ” of the girl, without ever discouraging himself, until the acceptance of the woman. The expression “the woman is a corn cob, the one who has crunchy teeth”, is indicative of what is happening in our societies.

A man, not only must feel the GOAT, but also must sport all the characteristics of this animal : know how to court a woman tirelessly, multiplying attention and delicacies, compliments and flatteries, until the final result. A woman who knows herself courted, does not give in for the first time, for fear of being called a “light woman”. She must ” play hard “, “be prayed for”, “send the suitor or the troublemaker back several times”. It can last for days, months, all holidays, and even years.

In our societies, men spend time seducing married girls and women by shimmering game or palm wine in the forest, fish and crayfish by the water, bread or cans in the neighborhoods of the cities, in order to put them to bed. They are legions in our cities and villages, well known and even tolerated. At the limit, they are given a nickname to laugh at. Here we see a kind of “Game, Fish, tin can, against the thighs of the woman or the girl”, almost with impunity. We are wary of this, of course, but it does not affect the course of society to make it a social fact.

The latter phenomenon of “game or palm wine on the slopes of the fields against the thighs” seems to equate in modern Cameroonian society, better in colleges, high schools and universities, to what is called ” harassment “. At this stage, it is very easy to draw a parallel between harassment in school and university settings and corruption in ministries and other professional settings (a kind of giving-giving without which the service is not rendered). Can this ethno-anthropological reading in accordance with our context of meaning help us to better perceive the persistence of sexual harassment in Cameroonian universities ?


Girls are more susceptible to and the greatest victims of sexual harassment than boys. They have sex against their will. Teachers are usually the perpetrators of this violence. They abuse their power to get favors. Hence, psychological threats, blackmail to failure, proposals for money … during this field investigation, several students of the University of Yaoundé I in general and especially those of the upper Normal School of Yaoundé stated that their comrades, teachers and unsuspected members of the administration regularly made rude and tendentious comments about their bodies. Some teachers even touched their buttocks. These are serious facts known to all administrators of school institutions. But the law of silence allows teachers to benefit from impunity that perpetuates the phenomenon. In higher education institutions, facts are quoted under cape. At the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Yaoundé, the pot with roses was discovered only thanks to the registration of a victim. When the case was revealed, the former students of the institution in question finally claimed that most of them had given either money or their bodies to get out of the Wasp.

In his book, Sexual Harassment and Ethics in academia, Professor J. E. Pondi (2011), points out that executioners ‘ methods range from late-hours work appointments in hotels, to humiliations in the classroom, to inappropriate compliments. The teacher also points out that sexual harassment in academia stems, among other things, from the financial insecurity of the student body. In general, although it is difficult to detect harassment, it has become commonplace in Cameroonian universities. Harassment is the real threat to a student’s socialization. One is harassed out of contempt, rejection, or threat. This is expressed by gestures, looks and words. Harassing means stubbornly tormenting and inhumane and violent treatment of a weak person (the victim), sometimes forcing him to do what he does not want. The victim is most often silent, so as not to worry his surroundings or to be stigmatized by his peers. Sexual harassment between students results in Group rapes (rallies). In their dealings with students, teachers take advantage of their situation of superiority to abuse young girls, brandishing the threat of bad grades. According To P. F. Edongo Ntede (2010: 183),

sexual violence in schools is much more prevalent in Cameroon than is believed, as families and teachers conceal or tolerate the problem. In high schools there are “contactless” but no less perverse or incomplete sexual abuse such as touching, kissing, caressing or masturbation… moreover, in primary schools in rural areas, teachers sometimes abuse their students by taking advantage of their relative influence in the environment. All these abuses are traumatic for young victims.

This is why harassment is claimed to be part of school violence. For E. Debarbieux (1997 : 45), violence is a ” brutal and continuous disorganization of a personal, collective or social system resulting in a loss of integrity that can be physical, psychic or material. “In other words, harassment is then a legible and visible form of violence that often results in physical (bullying), verbal (insults) or psychological (isolation) acts. His or her remand violates the dignity and physical or moral integrity of an individual. While harassment can be regarded as a social fact with observable consequences in academia, it remains true that its limits are difficult to establish. Hence the question of what are its multiple manifestations ?


Harassment is protean, but its most described aspect is that of teachers in relation to their students. The first figure of harassment is related to incivilities, while the second is related to immorality and lack of professional ethics of educators. Following our interviews, here are some testimonies.

Testimony No. 1

I am 25 years old, I am a teacher of history and geography at Leclerc High School in Yaoundé. I have a DEA in history and I started a PhD thesis. I stopped my thesis for a variety of reasons, including because the atmosphere was becoming very tense in my director’s office. His hands wandered very often as a sign of encouragement and paternalism. He also allowed himself to intrude into my sentimental private life, asking me if I had “a holder” [a fiance] and his conversations always seemed provocative to me. No longer just a student, I made the decision not to see him, because I already have the registration [salary]. But I know he made advances to a lot of other girls. Sometimes he used the promotion delegates. The day he wanted to kiss me forcibly at home, in the absence of his wife to welcome me, a weekend where we had to work, I decided not to go to see him again and I gave up everything.

It’s a pretty pathetic story lived by this lady who would have pushed her knowledge of history away. Cameroon needs high-level educated women in a society in search of gender development. However, we will not stop there to explain his resignation. She could have asked to change her thesis director if the Will was still there.

It is equally true that each of the students has a more or less fundamental and verifiable reason that he advances to write or not be able to write his thesis or especially his thesis. It is equally true that being able to write his thesis is not a sinecure.

Testimony No. 2

Sir, I introduce myself. My Name Is Alain, but I don’t want my name to come up in your stories ! [My investigation] I want to make my life successful… So do I… But our titular teacher, a woman of almost sixty years, has always made advances to me. And I never gave in ! When some students talked about it, I thought it was “kongossa” [the rumor] ! I’m an average student, but I validate. This is the main thing. But what was my disappointment when in the third year, my CC notes [continuous knowledge checks] were absent from the lists posted ! After investigation… I discovered that the error was not administrative, it was my teacher who did not send my note to the secretariat! I went to her office in the department, and she told me to meet her at Mimboman’s house, so we could go search my copy in her office. It was fun for him. She asked me why I was running away from her when she loved me ! I was dizzy ! Who was I gonna tell that to ? As a result, I resumed his EU [teaching unit or subject] the following year. Fortunately, this teacher is now retired because she was CC [lecturer].

It’s a shame we got there. If all this is proved, it must be said that in modern society, cases of this order are legion and spread in our Cameroon through films, series that come to us from elsewhere. Harassment takes place in every way : teachers (men) harass students ; teachers harass students ; young student boys give gentle eyes to their teachers and 60-year-old ladies do the same to the younger ones. Perhaps there is also same-sex harassment in our universities§

Testimony No. 3

I am Eleonore, former student of the ENS of Yaoundé. I was 20 years old at Level 1. I had a teacher who spent his time courting me. Since we had classes on Mondays at 7: 30, I had become the object of his class. He could not take classes without mentioning my name and without winking and signs… one day, at the end of classes, he asked me to follow him out of the classroom. He gives me his number and Targets Me at a meeting place. I take the number and tell him, ” sir, I’m only free on Mondays after school .” A painful smile is drawn on his face, I feel interlocked, surprised, I am quite troubled by this entry into the matter but nevertheless I do not answer anything and returns to the classroom, where I can not regain my minds and concentration. The next week he calls me and I answer that I am at church. Two weeks later, during the course, he starts insulting me in class saying: “you bami girls [girls from the Western Region of Cameroon], do you think that the church is made only for you ? “From that moment on, my grades left from 16/20 to 08/20. Moreover, he complained to all the teachers that I was a bad student who showed up. His office overlooking our classroom, I had him every day on his heels. It was not worth denouncing him, because all his colleagues knew and did the same… it was the law of silence. I’m speaking today because we finally denounced another teacher here ! It’s even on the Net !


Without direct physical violence, the victims, the authors of the three testimonies, evoke the disorder, malaise and issues that are at the heart of the classic processes of harassment. The perpetrators of the harassment, whether male or female, consider their victims to be fools for refusing them. They must then undergo mocking reflections. It is sexual harassment, since there is blackmail on their part. In addition, executioners take advantage of their dominant positions to make sexual proposals, exceeding their functions. They downgrade learners to sexual object status while they present themselves to them as male and student or female and student.

In general, when referring to sexual harassment in higher education, there are two obstacles. First taboo, then increased impunity through investigation, trial and punishment procedures specific to higher education institutions that complicate the recognition of the facts and the conviction of the perpetrators. Within the framework of the direction of memories, there is a dangerous proximity, which, if mismanaged, can lead to some ambiguity. Some teachers meet students in restaurants or cafes in the city, sometimes for lack of offices in the university space. The teacher – taught tandem becomes a risky couple. To the intellectual intimacy are added the psychic conditions of an intellectual grip of the teacher who is in a position of intellectual hegemony. The student becomes addicted.

But it must still be said to the teachers ‘ discharge that everyone is asking them to be held accountable: society, the hierarchy and especially the families who have become stressed and worried about the fate of the children who are now demanding to be held accountable. These are new requirements that do not rhyme with remuneration. On the other hand, the oldest in the profession (especially in primary and secondary) consider their profession devalued and are ready to change their profession. The testimonies of young teachers from the Ecole Normale Supérieure present teaching as a demanding and high-risk profession. It is necessary to correct at home, motivate students who lack appetite, master a group prone to violence when their initial training has been inadequate.

So there is a general malaise, because teachers believe that there is a lack of recognition of society. Hence, perhaps, this laissez-faire of those who today are suspected of being responsible for the problems of the school. Thus, in view of the current situation, we realize that teachers are exposed. They often end up cracking because, beyond the above-mentioned problems, the dress of young girls can not leave them indifferent. In Cameroonian universities, plunging bodices, mini-skirts and tight-fitting trousers are in fashion. Such behaviors are not highly publicized, but are in fact the emerging tip of an iceberg made of more ordinary moral sufferings.

However, the myth of the Almighty teacher still exists. The student still suffers from the feeling of inferiority. She may seem weak, reserved or even pretentious, but she still remains a potential victim. So there are two kinds of victims : submissive and provocative. Because he expresses his will for power, the teacher draws and highlights his power and authority which precisely create an injustice related to his function. The teacher is looking for a victim who manifests his inferiority. She has a need to satisfy : she wants money or she wants to get help intellectually. This is the sign of victimization[iv] (R. Girard, 1972).


This category of harassment is less visible, less publicized, little criticized, but quite real. The students, even the most talented, show off by their dress, their makeup, their body gestures, their beautiful physique highlighted, harass their teachers. Teachers claim that students are courting them. These are never clear clashes, but insinuations. E. Jean, 45 years old, lecturer at the University of Yaoundé I testifies :

I direct Master’s briefs. You see, I get students in my office. One day, one of my students sat in front of me quite suggestively. I make the remark to her because her dress was short ! She smiled but did not execute herself. I tell him I’m already old and I don’t like people coming to disturb me. She asks me who told me I’m old…

In addition, teachers, both men and women, harass each other. All modern means of telecommunications are used to get an appointment (phone, sms, skype, internet, mail, etc.). Okala, 48, a lecturer at the University of Yaoundé I, claims to experience harassment on a daily basis. He is stunned at the courage of some young teachers

Here the problem is very serious ! The young colleagues look at me and gauge me by looking me in the eyes at the lab. They sit with their legs apart. Even if you didn’t give them your number, they’re texting you on your cell phone. It’s like a competition ! we want to sleep with the most senior for protection or the youngest of us because they hope for marriage !

The phenomenon is not the prerogative of the youngest. Even older teachers harass their younger colleagues. Mpila, 29 years old, Assistant at the University of Yaoundé I, talks about his unfortunate adventure :

Since the beginning of this semester, I have shared an EU with Ms. N., Lecturer in our department. She’s a married lady who was my teacher. Her husband is a great merchant of the city. Since my recruitment, I have the impression that the teacher is doing me a lot of favors. She puts all her books at my disposal. Not having a salary yet, she helps me sometimes. When I arrive in her office, she always asks me to sit next to her on a small couch. I find it strange, but she tells me that between us there is no protocol anymore, because we are now colleagues. Sometimes she takes off her jacket and stays with a thin blouse. Next to me, she’s like my mother. One day she started telling me about her life. I smelled her perfume and she even put her hand on my thigh. She was not tender with her husband who had not done long studies. At the end of the conversation, she offered me to accompany her to a symposium in Douala. But I jumped him. It was the beginning of my misery !

In the end, all the behaviors described above come back here, except that the victims of the top become actors of the bottom.


There is no classic solution. Each harassment is unique and therefore its output for the harassed is so as well. Apart from submission to the harasser and in the absence of an effective arbitrator (recall that if there was an effective arbitrator, there would be no harassment), the way out depends only on the qualities of real autonomy of the harassed and his skills to control a situation that is constantly eluded.

Some recommendations can be directed to the academic authorities who must take an arsenal of measures to punish teachers involved in sexual harassment in disciplinary boards. In addition, it is necessary to introduce a civic education program in higher education in order to know the rights and freedoms of each to hope for a society that respects the rights ; create remedies to guarantee the rights of victims because they are afraid to denounce because it can cost their academic life ; set up a committee to combat all forms of violence against students in departments and faculties. These committees must be made up of irreproachable and credible teachers applying sanctions on all forms of violence in order to try to eradicate this phenomenon. These committees will also serve as protection for victims. Finally, it is necessary to review the living conditions of teachers and develop in them a sense of responsibility.


Anthropology does not teach educators the knowledge of children, nor many aspects of educational technique. It allows to decipher the environment of education by making a sociological, psychological and pedagogical re-reading, in order to situate in a true dimension the educational fact. This is a holistic view. Harassment seemed to us to be related to the culture and social environment that supports it. This is why it has been difficult to make the commitment to talk about all forms of violence in schools and universities in Cameroon.

The anthropologist thus strives to observe and describe, to give instruments of understanding the social fact. Sexual harassment is a sad reality in all professional circles in Cameroon. No body of trade is spared by this violent and low practice. It is commonly spoken of the right of cooking, the sofa position, or sexually transmitted notes. That is, the phenomenon has spread throughout society. It would therefore be futile to seek in our work an attempt to moralize our colleagues, nor conversely a nostalgic defense of the ancient values of pedagogy.

We remain convinced that on a subject like ours, it is not up to us to find the standard pedagogical and political answers to the problems. Our work can, however, contribute to providing elements for reflection. An analysis of the phenomenon of harassment in educational settings reveals that it is an apparently ordinary problem, but one that gains value if it is read from an anthropological perspective. The anthropology of education then becomes an anthropology of school problems, in the same way as general Anthropology, which is a study of the social and cultural traits of humanity as a whole, becomes an anthropology of everyday social problems, considered by some as banal. Let us, however, keep to fuelling an unnecessary dramatization of the phenomenon of harassment, whose media coverage often plays the role of some politicians who advocate a more coercive order, a form of authority swindled by a set of measures with more than uncertain social effects.

The crisis of our present age is first and foremost a crisis of values. When nothing seems to make sense anymore, it is that our values are adrift and have ceased to be unanimous. Civics commands respect for human values, but it is hardly possible for civic education to ensure the transmission of values. The phenomenon of loss of values can be seen in the loss of landmarks suffered by youth. For this reason, teachers must be brought back to positive moral and cultural values, continued training must be reintroduced, the living conditions of teachers must be reviewed, the benefits of dignity and the acceptance of professional ethics must be re-taught. It is the task of the teacher who accepted the responsibility to welcome children, to introduce them to the culture of the environment by passing on to them a healthy heritage that they will learn to know and respect.


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[i] The guidance Act n°98/004 of the 14th April 1998

[ii] Today in Cameroon, there is a category of young offenders operating primarily in high schools and high schools in large cities. These young offenders known here under the nickname awacheurs intimidate, racketeer, steal or rape students.

[iii] An NGO advocating for the Prevention of sexual and gender-based harassment in Canada.

[iv] René Girard proposes the hypothesis of the victim mechanism or mechanism of the emissary victim, at the origin of his book, violence and the sacred (1972). If two individuals desire the same thing there will soon be a third, a fourth. The process makes snowball easily. Thus, violence at its height tends to focus on an arbitrary victim and unanimity on it. The elimination of the victim brutally lowers the appetite for violence that everyone had possessed the moment before and leaves the group suddenly soothed and dazed. The victim lies in front of the group, appearing both as the one responsible for the crisis and the author of this miracle of peace found.

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