The delinquents of Mmadinare run amok

The future: Lore le ojwa le sale metsi
The future: Lore le ojwa le sale metsi

From drunkenness, to rape, growing numbers of students of Mmadinare appear possessed by the spirit of delinquency. Having nicknamed their favourite bars ‘the lab’ or ‘ko classeng’, the students have parents and the general community at their wits’ end. Mmegi Staff Writer, ONALENNA MODIKWA KELEBEILE reports

A wave of juvenile delinquency has laid Mmadinare village under siege, manifested in declining academic performances, set against rising pregnancy-related dropouts.

Police here have sounded the alarm over rising cases of rape and attempted rape, as well as defilement involving teenagers of school-going age. Many of those involved, police say, are students in junior schools as well as Mmadinare Senior School.

The students have taken over two drinking spots, in which they spend time while dodging class work, homework or preparations for the next school day.  They call one of the bars ‘the lab’ referring to a place where all forms of ‘experiments’ are carried out, while the other is called ‘ko classeng’.

Throughout the village, schools are afflicted by the rising legions of unruly students.

One such facility is Makome Hill Junior School, where headmaster, Thulaganyo Mbulawa, is a concerned man.

“Recently, some students left their homes under the pretext of going for a night vigil for one of their peers,” he says.

“Instead, they went to ‘the lab’.

“After the drinking spree, one of the students was raped and abandoned in a desolate building not very far from the bar.”

According to Mbulawa, defilement cases are also very common. Parents, he says, are to blame for setting the culprits free in some cases.

“One such incident was reported to the police and social workers became involved, but parents withdrew the case.

“Another 15-year-old girl dropped out of school as a result and she will resume school after confinement.

He adds: “Lab e tla feidisa dikolo tsa rona thata and we have brought this to the attention of the area MP. Another concern is that parents seem not to understand defilement. If they did, many people would be in prison by now.”

Analysts believe the major causal factor is the lack of parental guidance, as many of the rogue students live alone in the village, while their  parents spend long periods of time at the cattle post.

School managers report that some parents only show their face on the day their children report for Form 1 and stay away until the child finishes school. Parents are also said to be uncooperative when it comes to their cost sharing obligations and are unwilling to attend meetings or collect reports.

Mbulawa says the social ills plaguing Mmadinare students are due to the lack of proper parental guidance.

This year alone Makome Hill School has lost three girls due to pregnancy. Mbulawa explains that many parents tend to leave their children with grandmothers, who cannot closely monitor them, while they go to the cattle posts.

The school, however, has come up with interventions to address the situation and is working closely with stakeholders, who include social workers from the local hospital.

Makome has even introduced a student tracing system, where the records of each learner’s movements are monitored and stored, from their attendance in class to visits to the clinic.

“There is just no way a student can slip by unidentified,” he says.

“Even when the student is granted permission to leave the school premises, the register will reflect that.

“Mmadinare Hospital also has a student clinic where students are promptly attended to and are thereafter expected to return to school.”

“Even students trust the system of monitoring hospital visits and they are able to disclose their medical conditions to the guidance and counselling teachers.”

According to the School head, the new system has reduced absenteeism and is also lowering the rate of indiscipline in the school.

To incentivise performance, Makome has introduced a system of ‘banding’ where students are grouped according to the grades they attain. The students are then expected to openly state the reasons for their performances in front of their parents, during specific events.

“This is for Form 3  students and we do it every first term after examinations. We do not want parents to be surprised by their children’s final results,” he says, revealing that his only concern is that mainly parents of high performing students seem to be attending the briefings.

Elsewhere in the village, Merementsi Junior Secondary School has already recorded two cases of dropouts due to pregnancy this year.  The school has also had a single case of desertion.

One student at the school has already been raped this year, while parents withdrew defilement cases in the past.

“It is true that students visit local bars, but we do not have statistics because they are day scholars,” John Ntshole, the school’s  Guidance and Counselling, says.

“The problem is that these students stay alone while their parents are at the lands and hence there is no guidance at home.

“Also of concern is the mushrooming of churches that operate at night.”

School  head Janet Mmusinyane explains that parents are regularly addressed on the dangers of leaving children alone.

“We conduct  home visits to address absenteeism where parents are not forthcoming. Only a few parents visit the school to check their children’s performance, but the majority do not bother.

“There is just no support on the part of parents and some even never collect reports,” she said.

Mmusinyane matters are even worse this year, as some parents have abandoned paying fees or any contributions asked of them. The school, however, has to comply with government’s policy prohibiting any public funded school from withholding certificates or examination results in lieu of outstanding fees.

Echoing his peers, Mmadinare Senior Secondary School head, Sechaba Oabile, notes that the girl students   mostly affected by pregnancy-related dropouts are those in Form Four.

The school recorded 49 confirmed pregnancies between first term last year and first term this year.

Eleven of the pregnancies were recorded during the first term of last year, 18 during the second term and 10 in the third term. Ten more pregnancies were recorded during the first term of 2015.

“A number of students visit bars, especially the day students. There is evidence of lack of monitoring from parents and students end up being raped,” he says.

“Most of the dropouts are Form Fours, showing that they enjoy a lot of freedom of association during the periods between the junior school and the time they open for senior school.”

Additionally, the school has noted instances where students registered under the Orphan and Vulnerable Children programme are also playing truant.

Students are also stealing and engaging in other undesirable behaviour at the school.

“We have cases where some of the students are involved in housebreaking and we have gathered information that some teachers hangout with students at the drinking spots in question. This is an eyesore,”vreveals one head of department.

The school head believes there is an urgent need for parents and teachers to address the social ills plaguing the village. To this end, a meeting is planned between school management and village elders, which will even include business owners.

“Parents tend to support their children by providing them with gadgets that are not allowed in the school, instead of giving them the support and guidance they really need,” he says.

Meanwhile, Mmadinare Senior has introduced an initiative to reward the best performing students on a monthly basis, in order to motivate them.

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