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ONEYA: It’s time to permanently weed out sex pests from classrooms

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By FAITH ONEYA
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The classroom has sadly become a den of iniquities courtesy of errant teachers.

A story carried in the Daily Nation on March 14, 2019 indicates that 1,228 teachers have so far been sacked by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) for defiling minors.

One does not need much research or imagination to conclude that the number barely scratches the surface given the culture of silence and the taboos surrounding sex-related matters in Kenya.

It’s even sadder that we are not doing enough to help these children whose lives are permanently turned upside down by teen pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, stigma and mental trauma associated with the same.

I should know, having been taught by a sex pest once when I was six years old. He eventually left the school. In later years, I wished I had the means or capacity or audacity to report his misdeeds.

But I couldn’t. A lot of children are not equipped to.

This is one of the ways in which TSC and other education stakeholders are failing our children as most of the standards in place to deal with sex pests are reactive and not proactive. For example, why can’t the code of conduct of teachers towards students begin at the training level?

As a trained teacher, I don’t remember a single lesson on how to conduct myself around students. Learners could also benefit greatly if the sex education curriculum is fully implemented in school. Strangely, there has been some disgruntlement by lobby groups and some parents who call it inappropriate and unAfrican. As if teen pregnancies, STIs, trauma and stigma are African.

Given that teachers are often held in very high esteem, often taking the role of a parent in schools, it’s nearly impossible for children to accuse them of anything unless they are encouraged and empowered to do so.

The story behind the statistics gets grimmer because some of these teachers who are fired by TSC are hired at private schools that don’t have what it takes to vet them or choose not to.

Of what use is firing a teacher for preying on students if he or she is going to get employment at a different school?

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If only their dismissal came with publicised names and faces so that they could carry a similar burden of shame as the children, they molested.

The Daily Nation article mentions that some cultures engender early marriages, while ignorant parents accept hush money from teachers and other school workers.

But something more is making this sexual perversion fester.

TSC’s actions reflect the society’s “kindness” towards sex pests as the punishment meted out to the perpetrators is often incommensurate with the damage their actions cause to their victims. Our attitude towards the perpetrators makes an otherwise heinous crime seem like a petty one.

I once penned an article in 2018 highlighting my concerns about a tawdry headline in a local newspaper implying that it’s possible for a teacher and a high school student to have a “love relationship”.

The story stated that there was a wave of teacher-student “love relationships” that had hit a certain county and that the teachers had either been transferred or suspended because of it.

I disagreed profusely with the use of the word love relationship or affair when describing teacher-student relationships as it sanitised the crime and implied that consent was involved.

One of the responses to my pieces was even more disturbing but evidenced the casual attitude we have towards sex pests:

“People fall in love regardless of age or status. If the two consented, it’s a ‘love relationship’. Yeah we cannot blame the teachers, what if they (students) are seducing these teachers … it’s all wrong but happening.”

What I saw and still see is power play. And love is simply the power broker here. Consent simply does not exist in such a power relationship but our attitude sometimes suggests that it does.

Time is ripe to permanently weed out sex pests from classrooms.

Education Cabinet Secretary nominee Prof George Magoha said that if appointed, he will deal ruthlessly with people who prey on children. Whatever form or shape this “ruthlessness” takes, my prayer is that it will end with the sex pests being arrested, charged and imprisoned. And I pray the ruthlessness also involves permanent removal from the classroom.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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