Irfan Ghafoor Memon, a school principal of a private institution in Karachi was arrested for sexually harassing, blackmailing and threatening over 45 women under the pretext of giving them employment. This is just another incident amongst an alarming number of reports coming from within educational institutes, defying the perception that schools and universities are safe-zones where employees, and the students alike, are safe from such violations.
The investigation officer probing into the rape case revealed that the suspect was sent to jail for a seven-day physical remand while the team conducts the investigation. The victim who spoke out filed an FIR, explaining that the suspect would violate or extort them under the pretense of taking an interview for employment. Following her report, multiple women came forward, accusing the principal of misconduct in a similar manner.
This is an extremely concerning development not only because of the sheer number of women who were affected, but because of the larger trend of criminal activity in educational institutes. While it is reassuring to see the authorities launch an investigation, and conduct it seriously, we must become cognizant of the fact that schools and universities are supposed to be safe havens for staff, faculty and children alike. This is a venue where promising minds teach the youth of the country, guide them through life and develop their personalities as productive members of society. Parents entrust schools to provide a safe environment for their children as well.
To have the head of the institution—i.e. the principal—commit such vile acts jeopardises that very notion of safety. The authorities look into how those in positions of authority are able to violate norms and laws so easily. Beyond that, there must be an investigation into what the hiring process of educational institutes look like; we need effective profile scanning, a system for verifying qualifications, as well as accountability measures in place to deter even the potential of such acts being committed. The fact that these are not priorities of prospective employers, or the state even, is extremely concerning and rather risky since it leaves not only teachers but innocent children vulnerable.