Children's Corner with PANIC CHILUFYA
AS WE begin the New Year; it is important to reflect on some issues that negatively impacted the rights of children, especially the education sector that made headlines for mainly the wrong reasons.
There were reported cases of bullying, a practice that remains one of the major problems in most schools, especially that bullying often occurs in areas where there is minimum adult supervision.
Sexual abuse cases were also rampant with some teachers being cited as perpetrators and the victims, due to vulnerability, were unable to expose the terrible vice that robs them of their dignity. Such happenings are a parent’s worst nightmare when people entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of pupils begin to abuse pupils because of privileged positions of authority teachers occupy.
Often victims are coerced to succumb due to various reasons; there is nothing consensual when a teacher or superior takes advantage of the vulnerability of a pupil or subordinate. When such a situation occurs, there are power politics at play and this is a form of gender-based violence (GBV).
School-related gender-based violence (SRGBV), which by definition is sexual, physical and psychological violence that takes place in an education setting was another scourge. This is due to gender stereotyping, discriminatory practices and unequal gender relations.
It can also include threats or acts of physical violence, bullying, verbal or sexual harassment, non-consensual touching, sexual coercion assault, and rape.
Corporal punishment, which has been banned by Government is another form of SRGBV. Although schools are expected to play the most important role of eradicating this vice, some teachers were in the forefront by acting with impunity because laws to safeguard the welfare of children are not stiff enough.
Boys and girls can be victims and perpetrators of SRGBV. Girls are at greater risk of sexual violence, while boys are usually exposed to corporal punishment and bullying. As perpetrators, boys use physical bullying while girls are likely to use verbal or psychological forms of violence.
If not properly managed, SRGBV can affect the physical and psychological well-being of the victims. It impacts on the ability to learn, class attendance, leading to increased drop outs and unsafe or violent school environments.
The increased use of alcohol or drugs in schools was another problem. Substance and alcohol abuse affects young people’s general health, physical growth, and emotional and social development leading to increased disciplinary cases. Once under the influence of substance or alcohol abuse, it is difficult for abusers to control their actions or reason; often they tend to overact even when they are not expected to.
Underage drinking has also become widespread with young people experimenting with alcohol at a much earlier age than before because of its easy accessibility. According to research, children are more vulnerable to being addicted to alcohol because the pleasure centre of their brain matures before the part of the brain that is responsible for control and decision-making. Hence, the capacity for pleasure for children who begin to take alcohol at an early age reaches adult proportions well before they are capable of making important decisions that will affect their lives in the future.
Early, child and teenage pregnancies also plagued the education sector, this is despite numerous interventions by stakeholders. It is like awareness messages were falling on deaf ears because young girls were still getting married; some voluntarily while others were being forced to do so. Whatever the circumstances, it is important to encourage girls to stay in school for as long as possible and to encourage girls to enjoy their childhood instead of being child brides.
Examination malpractices and leakages were another challenge; a vice that is slowly becoming the norm not only amongst pupils in secondary schools but in institutions of higher learning, too. It is disheartening to note that some pupils are not ashamed to indulge in examination malpractices or mwembeshi as it is commonly referred to. Malpractices not only threaten the quality of education but also promotes laziness and does not encourage mental development on the part of those who indulge in the vice.
The number of teachers with fake qualifications was another disappointment, especially that it is a group of professionals that is entrusted with the responsibility offering quality education to pupils. If teachers do not have the necessary academic qualifications, how then can they impart quality education to their learners?
Although the list is not exhaustive, it is hoped that this year, lasting solutions will be implemented to address some, if not most of these challenges, so that Zambia achieves the sustainable development goals, especially goal four, whose objective is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Remember, children are our future. Until next week, take care.
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