Unusual problems at schools
January 23, 2007
Over the past two weeks there have been reports that all is not well in some of our leading schools.
There are reports of pregnancies in some top secondary schools, reports of violence against fellow students and teachers alike, and, above all, there seems to be a marked absence of adequate supervision.
In one school where there is supposed to be a dormitory mistress to supervise the female students, we have learnt that this is not the case. The result is that some male students invade the female dormitories and give vent to the raging hormones that abound in the young.
The young women appear to be equally compliant when it comes to sex in the dormitories. And all this is happening because the people employed to see after the welfare of the female students simply go about their own business. Their grouse is that they are not being paid enough and that they have their own children's welfare to administer.
Because of this lax supervision, there are reports that grown men with some measure of affluence would drive up to one of the schools at nights and remove some of the female students from the premises. This situation is nothing new. From as far back as one could remember, particularly from the days when the society stopped frowning on pre-marital pregnancies, young women would succumb to their physical urges and often become young mothers who are then forced to quit school.
It is not surprising that there is a deafening silence on this happening. In the first instance, the Education Ministry is keen to avoid a scandal and second, the school would never want its reputation dragged in the dust.
One would argue that young women get pregnant even as they are exposed to parental supervision. And indeed, this is the case. No parent can successfully contain the activities of a young adult who is bent on satisfying basic urges. This situation is minimised by those parents who develop a close relationship with their children, parents who could share secrets with their children.
However, when these children are placed in the care of others and something wrong happens, the parents lambaste the institution into whose care they place their children. They convince themselves that if the child had been living with them then the situation would not have developed. Indeed, they have a right to this view because there is nothing better than not having a situation develop outside one's control. Then, it is easy to apportion blame.
The fact that these girls are becoming pregnant is the least of the issue. Many of them are below the age of consent and this has legal implications. Anyone who is found guilty of sexual involvement with a woman below the age of 16 is conducting a criminal act. One would suspect that many of the fathers would simply disappear.
But there is also the question of security at these locations. As is expected, wherever there are residential facilities, there are curfews. There are also security guards to keep out those who have no right to be in the compound.
Here the Ministry of Education must take some blame. Within recent times, it has cut back on the level of security it provides to facilities under its control. This has led to the situations at one of the schools where no less than three girls have got pregnant since the start of the new school year. The matron should have been made to answer questions but whether this has been done is still not known because of the silence from the authorities. No one wants to talk and the belief is that if there is a wall of silence then the situation would disappear and the society would be none the wiser. It is time that we appreciate that lax attitudes can often lead to unwanted problems. At one time there were parents who were reluctant to have their children domiciled at schools with dormitory facilities. They always felt that the supervision would be found wanting.
If the problems that are now surfacing raise their heads one could very see an end to schools with dormitories, and, given the fact that hinterland children often qualify to attend schools in the city, this may not be in the interest of anyone.