There is increasing violence and brutality against students on the streets of Iringa, causing concern in the community. These assaults have long-lasting physical and psychological effects on children, including injuries, early pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and loss of life.
The Iringa Region Referral Hospital reports that 12 children are brought to the hospital each month who have been raped or sodomized
. This assumes a high number of unreported incidents that go unreported, says Dr. Alfred Mwakalebela, director of the hospital.

It is a sad and worrying situation.

The causes of the problem

Excessive alcohol consumption, false beliefs (superstitions) and negligence in child rearing have been found to contribute significantly to sexual violence, especially for children here in the city of Iringa and the region. This was announced on 26/11/2022 at the launch conference of the 16-day campaign against gender-based violence in the region, held in the city of Iringa.

The Honorable Regional Commissioner of Iringa Region, Mrs. Halima Dendego stressed that it is very possible to create an Iringa free of sexual violence if each of us takes our responsibilities accordingly in caring for all children. Ms. Dendego asked the police to prioritize these incidents in the investigation and instructed all institutions in the city, Conduct educational campaigns against violence to raise awareness in society.

Voices from Iringa

Msambatavangu explains that the consequences of rape or sodomy are permanent for everyone, even when they are adults, so urgent measures are needed to protect all children with true love. When disasters occur, we must not turn a blind eye to the damage to the nation’s workforce,” Madame Jesca says in tears and a sad voice.
She called on the government to impose harsher penalties, especially on adult men who commit violent acts against children, including jail terms or prison sentences.

The Chairman of the Council of Elders in Iringa Region, Peter Mkwama, warns the society not to ignore the warnings of the elders who encourage to respect and protect the good traditions and customs of the elders in order to build a society with love, fear of God, morality and justice for all people, especially children. Mkwama points to the Children’s Act of 2009, which states that all of society has a responsibility to protect children from all dangers. A person who violates the dignity of children is subject to severe penalties, up to life imprisonment and corporal punishment.
Mkwama emphasizes that every child should be respected and protected as God’s creature and that the community must ensure that children are protected from rape and abuse. He calls on society to work together to protect children from violence and condemns the barbaric acts children suffer on the streets.

Religious leaders also play an important role in the fight against rape and sodomy and have the opportunity to help stop these horrific acts in the Iringa region. A religious leader stressed that the government, various interest groups and religious leaders should work together against such acts to eradicate them as soon as possible. It is important to educate about the damage in all mosques and churches and to emphasize this in sermons.

Anti-Cruelty Institute Director Jane Mwalembe emphasizes that speaking out and condemning rape and sodomy can help reduce such acts. It is important to teach children how to give information quickly so that perpetrators are arrested and such incidents decrease in society. According to the Iringa Region High Court report, cases of rape and sodomy have increased and it is important to convict the perpetrators as soon as possible. Iringa Regional Police Commander Sunday Songwe is asking citizens to provide information about the presence and signs of violence in the region in order to fight crime and bring perpetrators to justice.

Mr. Omary Juma reported in our interview that by the end of 2022, more than 28 children in his district had been affected. Omary describes the problem as critical and mentions that the situation is also dire at nearby Igeleke Public Elementary School. One reason for this is the lack of education of some parents or guardians. This leads to dangerous behavior, including sexual assault.

Voices from our program

Mama Happy Komba reports that the situation in her neighborhood is bad and mothers have formed special groups to better protect their children. She mentions an incident where a boy was raped in the bathroom. The abused child reports that a man with a sword threatened him. Mama Happy Komba stresses that it is now up to parents and guardians to accompany their children and demands that such incidents must stop. She is a single mother and runs a small business in the city of Iringa.

Zuberi Mbwilinge, the father of a student, says he believes the main cause of the problem is excessive alcohol consumption by parents, guardians and therapists, especially through the overuse of the local alcohol “Ulanzi,” which is derived from bamboo trees. This consumption leads to poor upbringing of children and also contributes to sexual indolence and severe AIDS infections. Many residents of Iringa have a lazy attitude, especially men who do not like to work and rely on relatives or friends to provide for them. There are many street children without parents to take care of them. Mr. Zuberi Mbwilinge is a carpenter.

Ms. Oliver Mdegela also observes that the problem of rape and sodomization of children on the streets is increasing. She attributes this to the fact that many mothers run small businesses to generate income, resulting in many children being left alone at home or on the street for hours at a time, without supervision. This is due to the fact that many mothers leave home early in the morning and return late in the evening. Low-income families often do not have the option of hiring maids to help raise children. Ms. Mdegela urges mothers to reconsider these practices and protect their children.

Faith Cassian, a nine-year-old girl in fourth grade at Ummu-Salama Day School in Iringa, reports that she can no longer trust anyone – at home, at school, or on the streets. She feels threatened and is afraid to play with other children, especially when she is alone at home or on the street. Although she is always educated on how to protect herself and her classmates, she wishes the entire community would work together to address the problem and protect children from such assaults. Faith says there haven’t been any incidents in her area yet, but she has heard about them from the school, guardians and the media.

Baraka Nyagawa, a nine-year-old boy and fourth grade student at Ummu Salama Primary School in Iringa Town, reports that he no longer dares to go anywhere alone and even when he is home alone, always locks the door for fear of unknown threats. He finds it terrible and inhumane that children have to live like grasshoppers in a flock of crows. Although he hasn’t had any direct experience with the problem yet, teachers and friends at school have told him a lot about it. Baraka wants children in his community and throughout Tanzania to be able to live safely and freely.

Madam Rhoida Mgaya reports that although incidents of rape are not very common in secondary schools in Iringa Municipality, girls in particular are often raped by close relatives such as their father, grandfather, uncle, brother-in-law, brother and cousin. She reports six such incidents in 2021 at her school involving six girls. One of these incidents involved an orphan girl who was raped by her brother-in-law. She stresses that sexism and rape of young children, especially primary and preschool children, is a serious problem in Iringa. Because these incidents often occur outside of school, we as a society must make additional efforts to better protect children.

Our measures

Schulbank e.V., in close cooperation with the parents and guardians of the children participating in the program, has taken several measures to ensure the safety of the children. We have again emphatically reminded all parents and guardians of their duty of care. Furthermore, parents and guardians should ensure that they accompany their children to school and home and provide daily information about the children’s safety via cell phone text message to our office.

Schools with day students should also send daily information to our office about their safety and recommend that children be placed in a boarding school to protect them from hazards on school routes. Schulbank e.V. also offers children lessons in self-defense, and the schools should educate all students about the challenges and teach the proper way to defend themselves.
It is also recommended that parents have regular conversations with their children and check them for physical integrity. In addition, children should have the right to freedom of expression when exposed to acts of violence or when in a dangerous environment.

Schulbank e.V. and the schools have joined forces to address these challenges and ensure the safety of the children.

Asante Sana.
Edgar Mgembe, Program Manager
Iringa, 17.02.2023