TWO female students of Lusaka Apex Medical University have dragged their lecturer and the learning institution to court seeking a declaration that Apex Medical University breached its contractual obligation to provide a conducive learning environment for failing to consider their complaints of sexual harassment against one of its employees.
In this matter, Sandra Mubanga and Carol Saili, who are pharmacy students, have sued Philistone Nyirenda, a lecturer and Head of laboratory department at Apex University for failing them in their exams after they refused to give in to his sexual demands.
The duo has also cited Apex Medical University in the matter for allowing Nyirenda to continue invigilating examinations not withstanding their complaints of harassments.
In their statement of claim filed in the Lusaka High Court, Mubanga and Saili claimed that sometime this year, on several occasions, Nyirenda made various sexual advances towards them but they refused to give in to his demands after which he promised and threatened them that they would fail their exams if he did not have sex with them.
The two said that when exams commenced, Nyirenda ensured that he invigilated the students. They alleged that Nyirenda had accused them, in full view of other students in the exam room, of having sexual relationships with other lectures in the exchange for passing exams.
The complainants contended that the first defendant would order other invigilating officers to conduct a body search on them on the pretext that they had leakages, during the entire period of their exams, causing them mental anguish and embarrassment.
Mubanga and Saili stated that they reported the matter to the university but nothing was done prompting them to request the learning institution to permit them to re-sit exams but all their efforts proved futile.
They stated that Nyirenda’s conduct persisted and they went back to the Dean of the faculty of Pharmacy and Apex Medical University was summoned to which it acknowledged that its employee’s conduct was wrong and Nyirenda apologised to the students though nothing was done to mitigate their predicament.
The duo said that when they received their results, they were not surprised to learn that they had flopped as Nyirenda had vowed that they would not succeed in their exams.
“The plaintiffs will rely on the implied contract with the university and its students and aver that the university breached its contractual obligation to provide a conducive learning environment as well as proper administration of exams to the plaintiffs,” stated the complainants.
“The first defendant’s sexual advances and threats were reported to the university but nothing was done thereby breaching its obligation to provide a conducive learning environment to the plaintiffs. The second defendant is in breach of section 12 of the Higher Education Act No.4 of 2013.”
Mubanga and Saili said particulars of breach of contract were that the university refused to allow the plaintiffs to sit for deferred exams despite the persistent mistreatment at the hands of Nyirenda and declining their request to have their exam papers marked by an independent marker.
The duo said by reason of the statutory breach, they have suffered loss and damage and are demanding an order that their pharmacology paper be marked by independent examiners, damages for breach of contract, damages for breach of statutory duty, any other reliefs that the court may deem fit and costs.
In a letter seen by The Mast, Apex Medical University vice-chancellor Professor L. Munkonge advised the complainants to repeat the failed course because all results for the course were submitted to senate and were approved.