20 December 2012

Zimbabwe: School Heads Sleeping On the Job


OLD habits die hard, says the age old adage. True to it, many people have found it hard to shake off habits especially those acquired during childhood. Habits take a lot of effort to shake off and no

amount of spanking or threatening can erase them unless the owner is willing to work it out.

In light of this, one then wonders why our education system has become a breeding ground for habits, some of them so bad they can ruin someone's life forever.

Many times the education system has been found wanting and school authorities have been caught on the wrong side of ethics.

The scourge has continued despite the harm it might cause to the future generation.

Cases of negligence on the part of school authorities have been of great concern of late as incidents of children being starved in boarding schools and some being bullied under the nose of the responsible authorities have been on the rise.

What boggles the mind, however, is that the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture has remained mum despite several reports that have been emerging.

In November, 10 Murehwa High School Form 3 pupils were expelled from the institution after they stole a pig from the school sties and roasted it.

This development came after the children, who had allegedly lost their branded school dinner plates they kept in their dormitories, were barred from the school's dinning hall by school authorities.

According to some of the pupils expelled from the school, they had gone for days without the plates thus they were starving and they decided to steal the pig to feed themselves.

After the "crime" was discovered the pupils were taken to Murehwa Police Station.

The school informed the parents to go and collect their children from the police station via text messages.

Many of the parents whose children were expelled were not happy about this development as they said their children had never been involved in such incidents before thus the school was responsible for planting the seed of theft in their children

One of the parents who refused to be named said juvenile delinquency was common in children and they deserved to be punished to avoid future recurrences, but their children's cases had extenuating circumstances thus they did not deserve to be expelled.

When cases like these happen many people cannot help but ask if these habits were manufactured in school or if it is a case of many children with bad habits who have formed a gang.

Recently 700 girls from Mukaro High School in Masvingo sneaked out of their dormitories around 2am and walked to the District Education Office to protest against poor food and water supply at the school.

All classes from Form One to Form Six at the girls' school walked for about 20km to Mupandawana Growth Point in Gutu to protest.

The school authorities only discovered that the children were missing at daylight.

The story sparked a lot of debate as to where the matron or the security personnel were when such a large number of children left the school.

Parents were not happy about the security at the school and they questioned how 700 children would leave the school premises without even the slightest commotion.

Some asked how a girls' school could have such poor security.

No action was taken by the education ministry to stop the recurrence of such incidents in future.

Despite the various stories of negligence on the part of the schools, cases of bullies and prostitution in schools at both day and boarding schools have also emerged in recent years. Such cases have been on the rise due to inadequate disciplinary action towards the perpetrators of the crime or the teachers and authorities who are supposed to act in loco-parentis.

In November, a 13-year-old Prince Edward pupil was found floating in the school swimming pool.After this incident, many people suspected foul play as the school has very high incidences of bullying.

The doctor who carried out an autopsy on the boy also claimed that his findings did not point to drowning which prompted the police to investigate the matter.

Parents and relatives of the boy blamed the school for the boy's death as they said they were failing to look after the children left in their care as mandated.

In the same month, allegations of child abuse cases erupted at Waddilove Primary School in Marondera prompting parents to start withdrawing their children from the school.

Parents accused the school head of trying to cover up sodomy cases at the school and they signed a petition to the Provincial Education Director Mr Sylvester Matshaka.

The petition was also copied to the Public Service Commission provincial head Mr Farai Chimombe and the case is still under investigation.

Deputy Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture Lazarus Dokora said the ministry is aware of the events the schools.

He said they are working hard to ensure the smooth running of the educational system.

He, however, warned parents that schools will not baby-sit their children since there are systems in place at any given school.

He said these systems apply to everybody involved including parents, pupils and teachers.

"I went to Prince Edward and addressed the parents, staff and pupils but we cannot jump into conclusions until we hear the outcome of the police investigations," said Deputy Minister Dokora.

He, however, agreed that there was a breach of the system which led to the death of the boy since the school authorities had made it clear to everyone that the pool was out of bounds and a staff member chose to break the rules.

"The dead boy could not have been responsible for his death but there was somebody who had access to the keys and that person has to be answerable.

"As I said we have to wait for the police to finalise their investigations," he said.

On the Murehwa High School case and the dismissal of the pupils the minister said stealing cannot be condoned in any institution.

He questioned were the staff were when all this was talking place.

"The pig that I know does not die quietly so where was the staff when the pupils were slaughtering the pig?

"As of the text messages sent to the parents, well the headmaster took advantage of technology; we all have embraced technology, haven't we?" he said.

Deputy Minister Dokora added that the ministry does not and will never condone misbehaviour and no parent would love to enrol their children into school without rules.

"Our current levels of achievement in the education sector are not accidental but are a result of measures that were put in place to help our system grow and those have to be followed," he said.

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