26 January 2007

Namibia: School Sex Scandal

An explicit forty-second pornographic video clip showing a 17-year-old western suburb schoolgirl obscenely exposing herself sexually to a mobile phone camera is currently being distributed for free among school children in the capital.

New Era is in possession of the clip that was allegedly taken by the son of a diplomat on the front passenger seat of a car. The newspaper also knows the identity of the Grade 11 girl at a Khomasdal secondary school.

Seemingly the clip was either taken deliberately in a moment of weakness or at the spur of the moment during a casual conversation between the amateur cameraman, presumably the boyfriend, and the half-naked subject.

It is alleged that a similar incident last year took place at another secondary school in the capital in which a girl was summarily expelled for participating in oral sex captured on a mobile phone during school time.

The sex scandal and pornographic material that have landed on mobile phones of a number of students at the school to view the live sexual escapade has sent shockwaves in education circles.

Two senior officials of the Khomas Region Education Circuit were yesterday apparently sent to the David Bezuidenhout secondary school to investigate the occurrence that inherently holds far-reaching educational and probably criminal implications for both the girl and the boy.

Initially denying the girl is a Grade 11 student at the school, principal Dennis Fredericks admitted in a New Era interview that "the girl, who came from a private school, was last week formally enrolled at my school".

It is understood she is a former Grade 10 learner from a private school, run by an education trust, in the capital.

It is also believed that learners in possession of mobile phones at David Bezuidenhout school had a field day since the beginning of this week, focusing on the phone video clip being shown to all and sundry on the premises.

"I only got to know about the video on Wednesday just before the school closed for the day. One of the Grade 12 boys, the first to have received the sexually explicit video via his mobile phone, alerted his class teacher, who in turn informed me," said Fredericks, who cautioned that the possession of mobile phones by learners at the school is prohibited as per Ministry of Education directive.

When approached for comment on the incident yesterday afternoon, the Deputy Director of Education for the Khomas Region, Thea Zeefeld, telephonically called the occurrence "too fresh to comment on".

"Besides, it is a school-related issue. The principal is able and capable enough to deal with the issue at hand," said Zeefeld, who was accompanied by the circuit inspector of David Bezuidenhout Secondary School, Ryno Nieuwoudt.

Yesterday Fredericks and his staff confiscated six mobile phones from learners in all likelihood to prevent learners from watching the video clip during school time.

The explicit sexual video clip has been distributed to mobile phones with Bluetooth and Multi-media Messaging Services.

"It is obvious that pornography is a reality among the youth and in our schools. Personally I did not view the phone video clip that badly reflects on the ever downward spiral of our community norms and morality. This sort of thing happens due to a lack of traditional family values due to wrong focuses in which parents try to curry favour with their children by buying them mobile phones, expensive cars and providing them with a constant flow of money," a morally concerned Fredericks said.

To him it is not surprising that a 17-year-old girl already indulges in sex, but to have done it in this way (the video) baffles him.

"It is a fact that learners in primary school are already sexually active. On the other hand I feel we should not prejudge the girl's actions because the Namibian youth are daily subjected to many temptations, exacerbated by peer pressure, technology, the media, television, films and the Internet," said Fredericks, who vehemently denied allegations that a janitor last year caught two learners at his school red-handed in a bookstore room having sex.

"However, this incident is not only shocking to my staff, learners and the broader community at large. We do not condone such actions from any of our learners. In my opinion the girl in question is in urgent need of professional help. So does the person responsible for the documentation of the sexually obscene video clip and the distribution thereof," said Fredericks, who indicated that he would formally meet with the girl and her mother this morning at the school.

In the view of clinical psychologist Shaun Whittaker, the girl was somehow betrayed, something that can have catastrophic consequences for herself and her school career.

"This girl probably had been in a relationship with the person who documented the incident and in view of that probably agreed to being photographed. She might have considered the photographic session as acceptable within their private space, but not in the public domain. However, I doubt whether she has agreed to the distribution thereof," said Whittaker when asked for comment on the incident.

He acknowledged the fact that the appearance of the video clip in the public domain can be degrading and humiliating for the girl.

"She may be very ashamed about what has happened and at the same time it has the potential to derail her school career. The delicate situation needs to be treated with utmost care because she might even contemplate suicide. At the same time there should be consequences for the perpetrator, too, for this kind of sexual abuse," Whittaker said.

The psychologist suggested an urgent national debate be held on pornography and sexuality, topics that have been shied away from for too long, instead of primarily focusing on the AIDS pandemic.

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