And whosoever shall offend one of [these] little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone was hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. Mark 9:42
“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” Daniel 3:17-18
In this age of Internet connectivity, it was heartwarming to get a WhatsApp message from a former college mate who straight informed me about his intention for reaching out to me: he wanted to shed further light to Friday, February 03, 2017 issue of These Freedoms relating to a 23-year-old teacher’s immoral behavior involving a girl learner in Mangochi District.
He is an official with the Government Teaching Service Commission (GTSC), and he straight appraised this column of the work of the Commission, that obviously falls under the ambit of the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology. This is appreciatively a follow up response to last week’s discourse on the challenges that beset both girls and boys in Malawi schools’ teacher sexual predators on their students. Last week highlighted the plight of girl and boy learners with a sample of the Mangochi district teacher and a seventh grade, female student.
It was lamented that the practice of teachers preying upon by persons runs contrary to the mandate placed upon them and in trust by parents, government, and communities. It was advanced the threat to the girl learners (and in some rare instances boy learners) that he would fail her in exams was manipulative, cruel and a low tactic that forces many girls to subject themselves to such men.
The official highlighted that the establishment of the Government Teaching Service Commission (GTSC) led the same to conduct teacher sensitization meetings in all the country’s administrative districts at the zone level. during these, the GTSC comprehensively covered the core issues of the provisions of the ‘Children and Young Persons Act’ with special focus on teachers’ immoral behavior involving both boys and girl learners.
The official said that currently, the moment a teacher’s emotional love involvement with a learner has been established, that teacher is immediately interdicted by the Secretary for Education, Science and Technology (SEST) upon receipt of his/her case i.e. that is based on formally written evidence from the parents, the affected learner, the headmaster of the affected school, the District Education Manager (DEM) and most importantly including the teacher’s own handwritten duly signed account of the whole story.
The GTSC official said that subsequent to this, the teacher taken to a court of law and it follows that he is convicted, that teacher is then formally dismissed immediately by the GTSC from the Government teaching service. He said although the GTSC waits to hear from the courts to follow the due process of the law, the fact that the GTSC too has in advance all the evidence that was provided by the parents, the headmaster, PTA, the learner and health authorities and from other sources; these submits these to the courts which may find admissible or not. He pointed that some reports are really sexed up and without doubt sometimes certain reports are over-exaggerated.
Since taking office on November 09, 2014, the GTSC through these interventions, has dismissed several teachers using the policy that seeks to protect the lives of girls and boys in the learning environment, as well as stipulate the mandate of the teacher as stewards of all learners. This is very welcomed and highly commended. It is however, of concern that there are many required witnesses stipulated in the policy and written evidence by the accused and accusers, parents, and teachers. This places a heavy burden on lay people and outside the court system. just a stone throw away in our recent past, there could have been over 100 witnesses testifying against the infamous Aniva; however, during his trial witnesses chose not come forth hence the ridiculous jail term Aniva was handed for such a horrendous act.
I asked the official if the Commission gets all the required people to collaborate in the “student sexual molestation claims”? I also asked about some head teachers that in wanting to lose a teacher, shields them.
He appraised me that the only decision Commission takes on such cases is a dismissal.; and quickly added that 95 percent of the cases the Commission receives good cooperation from all stakeholder. The official noted with appreciation that the most critical evidence for a case to succeed without major legal complications, comes from the Parents Teacher Association (PTA), health officials and the Police i.e. this was especially true when the matter has been uncovered and reported quickly.
What is lamentable, he noted, was the role that some parents display in such matters. He said perhaps due to poverty, some parents sometimes either write a letter or utter in the courts that the teacher is a good man and or that he helps them with their household needs. Needless to say, such admissions in courts simply positions them as willing accomplices.
That we would all be like the three courageous Hebrew boys – learner, parents, and teachers – we can stop the creation of the vicious cycles of poverty in our development paths where unhealthy communities spread like wild forest fires. A stitch in time – in this case, the GTSC in collaboration with the PTA, head teachers, parents and ultimately, the molested girl or boy learner –can save nine.