Social Commentary by Venerato Babaine, M.Afr
A few weeks ago, a girls’ Secondary School in Kasama District of the Northern Province of Zambia got into the media, in public buses, local market areas, beer-halls, official fora and places of worship. This is a story about the forgotten and vulnerable youth. When the news burst-out that there is gross sexual scandals in Kasama Girls Secondary school, the media got into action and a number of people namely; school authorities, education department, security bodies, parents, politicians, civil leaders and people of goodwill got vigorously concerned. It’s a moral issue and a criminal offence that has drawn-in various people according to their responsibilities. This is evidence of poor discipline in institutions of learning, poor parental guidance and insufficient supervision by the Education Department.
The Ministry of General Education has intervened through its procedures, the police is making investigations and parents are waking up to the scandalous news about their children. The blame of physical sexual activity with the learner-girls at Kasama Girls Secondary School apparently rests on the shoulders of some male teachers and security guards. Security, disciplinary and legal measures are in process as investigations continue. This scandal has awakened a number of stakeholders to their responsibilities well done or neglected. People now feel more concerned about their children in learning institutions than before. The fingers are being pointed at the school authorities, the ‘ravenous’ teachers and security guards; those men, “wolves-in-sheep-skins”. Trust betrayed, guidance, security and safety denied of the female learners.
However, there is a group of people who might walk-away freely in this situation without taking their share of blame. These are: parents, police, Education Department, churches, business community and cultural leaders. These people are partly the causes of this scandal because they failed to play their part and fulfil their responsibilities. The burden of responsibility rests on these stakeholders. Beyond media sensationalism, there is a responsibility to bear as a matter of justice and integrity. Little or nothing is questioned on the leadership & management of the school; the parental guidance, Parents’ & Teachers ‘Association, Management Committee and the Board of Governors.
It is parents’ responsibility to be concerned about the affairs of their children when they are at home and away at school. How many parents sit down with their children during holidays to ask them the state of affairs at school? How many parents come to school to visit their children or have a conversation with the class-teacher, matron or the Head Teacher regarding their daughters? Some parents wait for the holiday period to end, do the children’s shopping, throw them on the bus and wave them goodbye. Then parents sigh in relief as the children depart. At the end of term, the return the children is bad news. A child lives an independent and unchecked life at home, at school and in Kasama town. The school authorities do what they can but the girl is her self-mentor and her own superintendent.
In such moments of scandal, the police becomes vigilant. Some police officers are parents. They may even have some children in Kasama Girls Secondary School. It would be appreciated that safety and security checks are undertaken regularly in such an institution. Police Service is not an Emergency and Crisis Management Institution. It has to prevent crime, enforce law and order, educate people, advocate for social sanity. Our men and women in uniform fail the public so often; their duty seems to rush where there is danger, crime and break down of law.
Sex abuse has been cited in some institutions of learning and professional training. A visit to any learning institution during normal time by a District Police Commander or his/her personnel would assure security and show interest in the school. It would create a stable security relationship between the school, the public and the parents. That is co-responsibility at its best.
Such a sexual scandal is in the realm of morality. This attracts religious leaders; the men and women of God. Soon pastors will start vigils of prayer for the school. Some may subject the girls to healing and cleansing sessions. It is a shame that this taken too long before pastors, priests and prophets have acted. How many pastors or priests visit the school for spiritual guidance or counselling? The Sacred Scripture says: “If I go into the field, behold, those pierced by the sword, and if I enter the city, behold, diseases of famine! For both prophet and priest ply their trade through the land and have no knowledge” (Jeremiah 18:14). Good shepherds or mentors have to be where things happen, in real life to mitigate damage and loss. They say that “A stitch in time: saves nine”.
Responsibility and education of the youth as the future of a nation applies to district education authorities, cultural leaders of the land and some Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) concerned about the welfare of people. Authorities and bureaucrats ought to leave their offices and palaces and go where the people are, where the messy life is. This is stewardship. In such cases we seek integrity to do our duty faithfully, humility to be servants of the vulnerable and peace that creates an environment of learning, for development and prosperity. People in Kasama and every one of goodwill must go out to attend to the neglected children. Educators of our learners must be vigilant and creative in their delicate role of nurturing youth by being role models and mentors.