ZIMBABWE. Harare: Parents have raised concerns over the safety of children at schools since teachers are on strike due to poor salaries. This follows a recent leakage of obscene and drug abuse videos of children that have circulated on social media. Schools officially opened on 28 Sep. for upper levels while 3, 5 and 6 grades opened last week.
Parents accuse the government of indifference
In an interview, several parents criticized the government for ignoring the demands of teachers. A parent from Filabusi, Thando Malunga, told Transcontinental Times that the situation was unfair to people who could not afford to send their children to well-advanced schools. Malunga said, “The government now is aware of what is happening in schools, but they do not care because their children are in private schools or abroad.” She lamented by adding, “It’s so sad and unfair to us, poor Zimbabweans if we look at the pictures and videos that are circulating.” “We played our part during the lockdown as parents. Girls went back to school without getting pregnant, but many will come back impregnated.” Malunga also said she believed teenagers needed to be carefully watched both, inside and outside of schools.
This term is the first time in the history of Zimbabwe for teachers to take such a long strike.
Given the current situation in the country, the salary of a teacher can barely be sufficient for a period no longer than two weeks. In the face of such precarious situation, another parent from Harare, Agatha Madamombe, said it was the government which was at fault for failing to recognize the importance of teachers. She said, “It is their right to demand a pay that enables them to send their children to school.”
Some children suggested the re-opening of schools should be the following year as some are misbehaving due to the absence of teachers. An ” O” Level candidate Gerald Zimbiti, age 19, said the opening of schools with no teachers on duty had been the worst decision. He said, “We haven’t yet seen many results, but one can confirm that schools have become day clubs. More than 50% of students will not return to school next year.”
Fear for the health of children
The director of Girl Child Arise Programs, Tererai Mahenga, said that although the refusal of teachers to return to duty was justifiable, this would put at risk the lives of the children. Mahenga added, “If these trends continue soaring, l fear we will lose a greater fraction of a whole generation.” “The scare of the spread of STIs and HIV is not to be ignored this time,” he said. “Boys and girls going to school now are just going to engage in wayward behaviours.”
Obstruction of children’s rights
Concerning the rights of children, Mahenga said, “Their rights are being trampled upon, inclusive of the right to care and protection, freedom of expression, the right to education and notwithstanding their sexual and reproductive health rights.”
The constitution of Zimbabwe under section 19 enshrines the rights of children. It includes the right of children not to provide services that risk their well-being, education, physical or mental health.
The need for child protection
Zimbabwe Teacher’s Association (ZIMTA) Chief Executive Officer, Ndlovu, said education was lagging, and the government needed to act fast to capacitate teachers. He added, ” If learners are left unattended for too long, they will get lower grades in public examinations. They may lose focus and acquire undesirable behaviours.”
Ndlovu expressed his worry concerning the huge number of followers the videos are getting from the adult population since that would be considered child abuse. He also emphasised on the need to protect children from this type of social abuse.