I was fourteen years old in grade twelve when I had the experience.
You know that exciting feeling you get when it is the final year of school? Especially high school! The rituals of early mornings, braiding your hair a certain style, ensuring your uniform looked certain way and even getting whooped for going to school late. Man, I was excited for everything that year! After going through the hassle of finding a uniform, the exact uniform required by the school with my mom, I was ready. As it turned out, I was the youngest female in my class like always. But that year was different, I was a tie-wearing senior, chock full of new privileges and advantages!. I mean, I didn’t intend to misuse these privileges, but I was hyped nonetheless!
The first day of school and the first semester went pretty well. I became friends with this boy who was on the basketball team and that had people talking. Back then, all the girls wanted him and envied our friendship, so being close to him automatically meant that we were going out. The rumor was such a hot topic that it reached even the teachers. But then something way more scandalous reached my ears, I was told about something that has been happening between some female students and some male teachers. The vexing rumor came from the boys I was friends with in my class.
They said some teachers were asking female students to have sex with them and if the female student refused this request, they ran the risk of being failed in that teacher’s subject. They also mentioned that it all started because some female students offered sex to some teachers in exchange for better grades. Even the teacher’s personal assistants were included!
I was amazed mainly because my fourteen-year-old brain couldn’t wrap itself around something so fundamentally wrong. So, I told myself the guys were lying, probably to put me on the edge and play some pranks on me being that my biology teacher had recently took a liking in me. But for me, that was normal. I was the youngest female in the class and biology was one of my favorite subjects and I had good grades in it so it didn’t seem like a big deal for the teacher to like me. Oh, how naive and wrong I was.
On a fateful day after biology class, this teacher asked to see me during recess, saying it was important that we talk. My first thought was, “I probably did not do well on the last test and he wanted to talk about it.” So, recess came around and I went to see him. He started by asking, “Do you have a boyfriend?’’ I told him no. He then said, “How about the guy on the basketball team who I often see you with and everyone is talking about. Who is he?” “He’s just a friend, nothing more,” I replied. But I was curious as to why he was asking all those questions that were not school related so I asked him why it was important he knew all of that and he replied by saying, “You are pretty, you should have a boyfriend.” Well I already had one but that’s none of his business, which is why I said no from the beginning of the conversation.
Then he uttered the words that still haunt me till this day, “I am interested in you, that is why I asked all those questions. I want to ensure you don’t have a boyfriend because I do not want a student I am teaching disrespecting me because I took his girlfriend from him.” I stood there utterly shocked.
The conversation came to an end with him saying that I should think about everything he has said and get back to him. My first thought was, “I could have avoided all this by simply answering yes to his first question.” But I just mumbled a timid “okay” out loud and walked away.
The rest of that day and night, all I kept thinking was, “What kind of man with a daughter who is the same age as I am would ask to me to be to his gir…” scratch that. Honestly, I cannot even write the word out. But all through this, I was certain that there was no way in hell I was going to agree to date a man old enough to be my dad! I did not even care what his intentions were and what the consequences would be when I turned him down. Therefore, when the next day came around, I found him and told him that I would not go out with him. I felt relieved and worried at the same time but I knew what I did was right and necessary. Fast forward to the last three months left for school and I noticed something disturbing, my male friends started to stay away from me. It was brought to my attention that they were all threatened by my biology teacher; he had told them he would make them repeat the class if they were seen around me. My popular guy friend who played on the basketball team refused to do this and in a turn of events that still seem too predictable to be a coincidence, he ended up repeating his class. “The audacity of this man!”, I thought furiously.
I wanted to do something to this teacher, something to make him pay and show the world the horrible shit of a person he was. I wanted to fight my friend’s battle because it was not fair, but this was our reality. I had no idea what I could do about it. Looking back now at what happened, I realize that I should have done something instead of keeping quiet.
I had this experience nine to ten years ago. I did not speak up and I am certain this vile practice continues today. So I’m speaking on it to implore anyone who’s going through this or sees it happening to not keep quiet like I did. Use your voice to erase the sad realities of sex for grades. I am aware of how scary that seems but if you don’t stand up for yourself and the many others it is happening to, it will continue and heavens forbid, your daughter will go through it years from now. All it takes is one person to say, “this is heinous and I’m going to do all I can to stop it” and you will start a revolution. Sleeping with a student is wrong in so many ways! The power dynamic makes it a gross abuse and it needs to stop. Students should not give their bodies in exchange for “better grades”! We need to use our voices to create a better Liberia.
Authored by Tenne Cooper