Stamp out rampant sexual abuse of pupils

Headteachers need to be more vigilant to ensure the bad apples are identified and weeded out.

Saturday March 12 2016

By EDITORIAL
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A new report detailing the rampant abuse of children in primary schools just goes to confirm what is actually common knowledge: That the children are sexually, physically and verbally assaulted and the major culprits are their teachers, the very people parents entrust with the young ones.

Teachers are the people who spend most of the day with the youngsters and some take advantage of their vulnerability to inflict deeply emotional and physical injuries that will haunt the minors for a long time.

The saving grace for the sad state of affairs, however, is that the child molesters are a tiny minority. But that is no consolation. Headteachers and their teams, including class and discipline heads, need to be more vigilant to ensure that the bad apples are identified, weeded out and severely punished as a deterrent to would-be offenders.

Corporal punishment was outlawed in schools and yet children are still subjected to the cane by callous teachers, who believe that the only way to instil discipline in the young is to assault them.

This creates an atmosphere of intense fear among the young learners, which can only hamper their development.

The new survey of 2,010 pupils in 79 public schools by Women Educational Researchers of Kenya (WERK) describes school-based violence as institutionalised, and the young ones, being first learners themselves, are wont to do what they see their teachers doing when they get a chance.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that some of the perpetrators of the verbal and sexual abuse and other forms of harassment in schools are themselves pupils. Schooling should be an exciting experience, but with the spectre of violence hovering over the young minds from all corners, it is hardly the place many would wish to be.

Surprisingly, for many of these children, the situation is even worse at home. After being whipped, punched and kicked around by their own parents and guardians, the suffering only continues in school at the hands of their teachers and peers.

To get the best out of these children, there is a need to create an environment devoid of violence at school and at home. Of course, it is easier at school, where there is a clear system of rules and regulations that govern the conduct of the teachers and their interaction with their charges.

Headteachers, county education directors and inspection officials must up their game.

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