What you need to know:
- That the 2020 education calendar was lost and primary and secondary school candidates will sit their exams in 2021 means that many students in Form Four will have turned 18 and attained the age of sexual consent.
- If no measures are put in place to address these unique circumstances brought about by Covid-19, then sexual predators might have a field day in 2021 and distract the girls from concentrating in their studies and continuing their education.
Whenever he speaks, you can be sure that both the content of Professor Magoha’s speech and his style of delivery is bound to split the public right in the middle as to whether he cares for anyone else’s opinion other than his. It is therefore not a surprise that when the good old Professor made the announcement that the 2020 school year was null as a result of covid-19, he did not take any follow up questions from journalists.
Unfortunately, this means that a host of questions were left unanswered, and as someone who has a pupil in school, I have quite a number of questions. Today though, I will focus my attention to the issue of teenage sex, with a particular focus on school girls. Based on the lost school year, I project that there will be an increase in teenage sex, and potentially an increase in the number of teenage pregnancies among school going girls, especially in high school. I am thus interested in knowing whether the Ministry of Education has considered the fact that such a possibility may play out, and how they’re preparing to handle it.
Here are my thoughts; first, one of the biggest deterrents to men preying on school girls, has to do with the fact that the girls are usually minors. Of course there are outliers to this rule, such as girls who went to school late, but generally, by the time a girl reaches Form Four under the 8-4-4 system, they’re usually about to turn 18 or they turn 18 in the middle of the school year. But 2021 and beyond will be different. As a result of the missed school year, we will be experiencing a situation in which most of the girls in their final year of secondary school will actually be young adults with the right to consent to sex. While one may argue that we’ve always had girls in Form Four who could consent to sex, it is the first time that nearly 95 per cent of them will be old enough to legally make that decision.
Apart from the challenge of teenage girls engaging in sexual relations with boys their age, Kenya has been grappling with an even bigger challenge — that of some teachers engaging in sexual relations with their students, before the latter attain the age of consent. However, as already mentioned, next year will be totally different. I’ve gone through the Teachers Service Commission Code of Conduct and Ethics, and while it is huge on corruption related issues, it is very minimalist on sexual offences. In fact, the two clauses that come close to addressing the matter only say that “a public officer shall not engage in any sexual activity with a student, regardless of whether the student consents” and “a public officer shall not make a request to, or exert pressure on, a student for sexual activity or favours.”
These ethical provisions have previously been able to bark and bite because of the Sexual Offences Act that doles out painful punishments for teachers that infringe on them. However, what will happen now that the girls, especially those in form four, will no longer be minors? How will we keep those ill-mannered teachers from our school girls?
For some additional context, only last year, I raised this particular issue as a topic of discussion with respect to lecturers engaging in intimate relationships with and their students. To my utter dismay, my lecturer informed me that at the university level, it is actually allowed for students to date and engage in consensual sex with their tutors as long as the latter declare that they have such a relationship. He went ahead and cited many cases of lecturers who have gone on to marry their former students with whom they started dating from the lecture halls setting.
This bold revelation by my lecturer raises another concern, since the Ministry of Education ended the two-year wait for Form Four leavers to join universities and colleges, there are students who have been joining university just as they turn 18. Given their age and university policies, some of these students have been able to legally and freely engage in intimate relationships with their lecturers. However, such pleasures currently stand prohibited for girls of 18 who are still in high school. Does this therefore not mean that as a republic we will be discriminating against some adult girls on account of their level of education?
Given that the Education CS did not provide an opportunity for questions to be asked during his one-way communication with the press, this piece has no proposals on how to address these challenges. It is merely seeking to pique the curiosity of the top honchos at Jogoo House, and potentially have them provide some specific answers as to how they expect to handle this situation in 2021, to ensure that school girls can effectively focus on education, and not suffer an increase in the burden of managing unwanted sexual advances from men just because the law will allow them to consent to sex.
The author comments on social issues.