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School of chaos

School of chaos
STUDENT CRSIS: Gowa Junior Secondary

Where students skip class to booze with parents Okavango voice

Being a teacher at Gowa Junior Secondary School is a daunting task.

This is a school where teachers have to regularly go looking for absconding students so that they come to class and sometimes they find these students drinking alcohol in shebeens in the company of their parents.

The school is located in Gowa settlement, which is between Kauxwi and Xakao villages in Mohembo area.

At this school even when teachers identify sexually molested female students, the parents simply drop the cases and look the other way.

These kinds of violations of children’s rights were uncovered by a team of North West District councillors in a tour of the school two months ago. The councillors formed a task force, which was mandated to go and investigate maintenance and living conditions at the Gowa.That was when schools had just re-opened following a countrywide lockdown, which was necessitated by the outbreak of corona virus (COVID-19) in May.

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The report, which was only released this week revealed that, “HOD’s (Heads of departments) at the school regularly do house to house calls looking for students, and often find some of the students at local drinking spots enjoying alcoholic drinks with their parents.”

The report further suggested that Gowa secondary school students “are not well mannered,” with some of the students’ behaviour influenced by drug usage including glue, dagga and cigarette smoking.

School desertion is very common, not only among girls but among boys as well. Just this past term, which started in January until March, the school recorded eleven dropouts, “majority of who are boys and four pregnant girls.”

“In 2020, four cases and one suspected pregnancy were recorded. The suspected case was handed over to social services department, but parents are not helping as they drop reported cases,” further explained the task force, which was lead by councillor Petros Tjetjoo of Kareng/Sehitwa/ Legotlhwana ward.

The report added that even though teenage pregnancies are a direct result of defilement, parents of Gowa JSS students do not want to engage the police and an example in point they said was a form 1 student who gave birth at school last year, “Parents did not show up for the matter to be investigated.”

When the whole country is up in arms against gender based violence whose many victims and survivors are women and girls, there is a young girl at this school who gets up every morning from a man’s bed. Councillors revealed that at the time of their visit at the school one form three student was cohabiting with a man.

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Chobe Sub District Council chairperson, Karapo says defilement of younger girls is encouraged by poverty and local traditions that allow marriage of underage girls in certain communities.

“We know that parents in these communities will allow men to sleep with their children because such men bring plastic bags full of goodies for the families. We know it is happening and that as soon as a child completes form 1, she can be given to a man to marry. It is no secret, it is happening,” said Karapo in an interview this week, reiterating what he said in the just ended council meeting on Monday.

Is there anything that the school can do to help these children whose parents are ignorant of the law?

A human right lawyer based in Gaborone, Uyapo Ndadi of Ndadi legal firm explained that anyone could report a criminal activity including neighbours and teachers because, “concealing makes them complicit. The children’s Act makes it a criminal abuse to expose children to acts that are harmful to their being. Children deserve protection and love by all.”

Meanwhile the school does not only have to deal with difficult students but problematic parents too, The PTA (Parents-Teacher Association) is not operational. Members do not attend meetings and offer no explanation for absenteeism.

Furthermore the parents are reported to have bad relations with the teachers as they refuse to collect their children’s progress reports forcing teachers to make house calls to address issues of concern at home.

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The general community in the area is said to be making the situation worse by playing an active role in vandalising the school property

“The community is also responsible for vandalising the school. They cut the school fence and let their livestock in to graze. They steal equipment like water tanks, wheelbarrows and spades. The school has engaged a “you break it you pay policy”, to counter vandalism. It is not working because parents are unable to pay,” the report stated.

Yet another problem at Gowa is the boarding school, which does not have enough beds for students who are forced to share beds. The girls hostel ablution facile not functioning.

The hostels boarding capacity for girls is 304 and the school has 296 of them, but only 160 beds are available. Boys boarding hostel capacity is 304 and there are 259 boys boarders, “The number of bunk beds available for boys is 87 and 32 of those need to be maintained or replaced.”

The task force therefore recommended the temporary closure of the school for maintenance of ablution blocks to be completed and pit latrines to be built as alternative toilets in case the water system toilets stop functioning as in the current situation at the girls’ hostels.

The school has a total of 827 students, 555 of whom are in boarding.

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