The quest for safe learning institutions remains top priority …as the country celebrates World Children’s Day

By  Tafadzwa Muranganwa

In 2010 a Grade 5 pupil at Chishawasha  Primary School died  and several others fell ill following  suspected food poisoning and in 2015  about 200 students at Peterhouse Boys High contracted diarrhoea.

Maramba Secondary  in
Mutawatawa and St Joseph  Secondary
School  were early this year ordered to
shut down following a Satanism scare .

A week ago, Walter Temera , a Midlands State University  Local Governance  student was found hanging  in suspected suicide following an alleged
love triangle with a lecturer at the institution.

The above   unfortunate incidents have ignited debate on
what can be done to restore the country’s learning institutions to    safe havens
for school children and the young adults.

Mr Timothy Kwambana   while
bemoaning the rising cases of  
unfortunate incidents in learning institutions believes that the role to
make safe learning environments is a holistic approach that needs  parents, teachers, the institution  authorities and the government .

“Most of the time parents ascribe their roles to teachers , tutors
and school authorities once their children enrol at a school or university
which I think is unfair there is the need for a concerted effort to make sure
these institutions are made safer,” cited Kwambana.

Another parent said there are many reasons why  learning institutions are becoming breeding
ground for nefarious activities making them unsafe for both learners and the
tutors themselves.

 “ The prevailing low
teacher motivation, increased exposure of students to technology,  banning of corporal punishment, the rife in
drug and alcohol abuse  in schools
and  the 
sprawling of private colleges/ schools which are not registered and
approved  by  relevant ministries have  led to learning institutions to be unsafe
havens for the students, teachers and lecturers,” blames Mercy Mukandi.

It is this quest of safe learning environment that has seen a
consortium of 5 civic organisations launching the Safe Learning Institution
Initiative(SLII) in  Harare on Monday  .

The Amalgamated Rural Teachers
Association of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) which has been leading ‘Safe Schools’ Campaign
joined hands with the Students Christian Movement of Zimbabwe(SCMZ),
Research  Advocacy Unit(RAU),Zim Human
Rights NGO Forum and Veritas  to push for
safe learning institutions .

Speaking at the launch of  SLII, ARTUZ president Obert Masaraure says  following the launch of their Safe Schools
campaign which had its highlight when a High Court  interim order interdicted  Zanu PF from bussing  school children to rallies ,the organisation  saw it fit to join forces with other
like-minded organisations to ratchet pressure for safe learning spaces.

“As you are aware we have been
pushing for safe schools and during the run up to the recently held harmonised
elections we won a court relief   order against Zanu PF’s bussing of school
children to rallies which unfortunately was rescinded by the Supreme court .

“Having realised this we thought
it was prudent to   up the call by
uniting with  SCMZ,RAU,NGO Forum and  Veritas ,” briefed Masaraure.

Research and Advocacy Unit
director Shastry Njeru  who  is haunted by a gory  event that happened when he was in
primary  school  asserts that there is the need for preserving
safety for school children in its entirety to produce responsible citizens.

“Issue to do with school children’s
safety   are at the core of my heart having been
exposed to a   disturbing event while  in Grade 1 when we were called to  assembly to view paraded  7 bodies of  people who had been killed for snitching
during the liberation struggle.

“It is in this regard that as an
organisation we saying  there is the need
to ensure there is safety of education , safety of the infrastructure, safety
of a children’s journey to and from school and if these are not met they don’t
create a proper citizen,” revealed the RAU boss.

Lawyer Kenias Shonhai of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum   voiced concern on the continued  chasing away of children for non-payment
of  school fees.

“As an organisation we bemoan the continued violation of
children’s rights   where school authorities chase children for
non-payment of school fees  which is
their parents’ responsibilities, ”bemoaned Shonai.

Students in tertiary institutions are also clamouring for their
safety  which they say is being
compromised by the prevailing economic conditions that have seen  female students being victims of sexual abuse,
according to Louise Makosa of  SMCZ.

ZINASU president Archibald Madida  
pleaded for consideration of students living with disabilities as most
education institutions lack ablution facilities and study materials that
cater  for their needs.

The launch of the SLII came a day before the World Children’s Day
which is commemorated on the 20th of November annually and the
organisations said it was befitting since most of the challenges they were
highlighting affect school going children.

The day is running under the theme ‘’Children are taking over and turning the
world blue’.