CONSIDERING most of the socio-cultural and economic challenges relating to children and youths that our country is going through, it is important to consider how rights of a child are handled; and the effects of such application of the rights of a child on children.
The way rights of a child are handled is becoming worrisome in the wake of high levels of laziness, youth delinquency, drug abuse and immorality where most of the girls in schools become pregnant before they finish their education. And last year’s grade 9 and 12 results are thorn in the flesh which seems to spring from how rights of a child are handled.
Rights of a child have been with us for years in memorial. One can argue that the Holy Bible is very clear on how to bring up children. But it appears some people from somewhere have departed from what the Holy Bible guides us on how to bring our children up; especially when one considers different socio-cultural and economic environments of a certain society.
A certain friend of mine in Lusaka’s John Laing Compound told this writer that one day, some of his children reported him to Zambia Police (ZP) victims support unit (VSU) for allegedly violating the rights of his children. Upon receiving a police call out, the named man, in his late 50s, went to ZP-VSU for the same. He found his some of children at that ZP-VSU.
Then he was told that his children have launched a complaint against him for violating their rights. His children explained what happened. The man also explained what actually happened. Using textbook knowledge of what violation of children rights are, the police blamed the parent for violating the rights of his children.
Upon hearing this, the man told the concerned ZP-VSU officers to keep the named children with them forever because what the children want to be doing; and what the concerned officers were supporting was evidence enough that his children and those ZP-VSU officers were birds of the same feather who could live in harmony together.
The man left the police station; leaving all the children behind to now be looked after by the concerned officers who support any behaviour of a child in the name of rights of a child.
The purpose of this article is not to blame those promoting rights of a child for the current situation among children and youth; but to remind each stakeholder in rights of a child to consider a number of socio-cultural and economic factors and their consequences while promoting the rights of a child.
In the past, teachers and parents worked hand-in-hand in promoting hard work and discipline in children to mould them into responsible citizens. In such an arrangement, when a parent learnt that a teacher punished his or her child, that parent would automatically punished a concerned child for indiscipline. It was felt that for any teacher to punish a child, it means that the child was wrong.
But when rights of a child were introduced in Zambia, some people misunderstood such rights; and therefore abused them in many ways.
We have had cases in the past and now were when a teacher bits or punishes a school child, and a parent comes gallivanting to school or in front of a concerned teacher; saying any unpalatable words to the school administration and the concerned teacher.
Some teachers have been taken to police for instilling discipline in some school children.
As a result, many teachers have now resigned from instilling discipline in pupils for fear of being taken to police. Most parents have also folded their arms in promoting discipline and responsibility in their children for fear of being taken to police or to any NGO promoting the rights of a child.
Unfortunately, when one goes to foreign countries were the same rights of a child originate from, one finds that rights of a child are confined to the existing culture of that society; and that the same rights are within the confines of morals, values, traditions, rules and regulation of each family and society at large.
Mr Reuben Likezo, 53, in Lusaka argues that rights of a child have not been handled well. Mr Likezo who is a former University of Zambia (UNZA) worker and UNZA professional staff association (UNZAPROSA) member says the way rights of a child have been handled have brought indiscipline, irresponsibility, disrespect to parents and other elderly people. He also argues that rights of a child have promoted dullness and laziness in children and youths.
But some ZP-VSU officers understand how far the rights of child go; and their limitations. Some NGO officials also know that the so-called rights of a child are not absolute.
Is the way we are applying rights of a child enhancing responsibility and hard work in families and in schools; leading our children to being responsible citizens and ethical future leaders?
Why do we have many children and youth in alcohol and drug abuse related cases and with many teenage pregnancies? Are these not the effects of how we apply and handle rights of a child?
This writer, Desham Chulu, Masauso Nkhoma, Duncan Chinjoka Tembo, Anthony Kabaghe, Wevy Machila, Christine Busiku and many others remember how former Chadiza Secondary School authorities such as the then headmaster, R W Gyde, former and late headmaster, Alick A Mbuzi (MHSRIP) and their former deputy headmaster, late D S Haanyinza (MHSRIP) used to promote hard work and discipline at this school in the 1970s and early 80s. Any form of indiscipline was punishable without mercy.
Most Chadiza Secondary School former pupils perceived the late Mr Haanyinza as a cruel person in treating pupils who violated school rules; especially the rule on ‘out of bounds’ which attracted a punishment of digging a 3m x 3m x 3m pit; and then cover it up after completion; in addition to missing lessons for three weeks.
But Desham, this writer and others have reflected on how former Chadiza Secondary School authorities promoted hard work and disciplinary among pupils. It is from such a background that most of former Chadiza Secondary School pupils are relatively doing well in their endeavours because of strong hard work and disciplinary background. Our parents also did a lot to promote hard work and discipline in us.
This time, most of us who were at Chadiza Secondary School during the time of late Mr Haanyinza and his team of teachers are looking for such former members of staff at Chadiza Secondary School to appreciate them for moulding us into hard working and responsible citizens.
Most former Chadiza Secondary School feel that without school authorities’ perceived cruelty; and our parents, we wouldn’t have studied hard at school. This would have led to poor academic results; leading to destitute lives.
And Times of Zambia’s Sam Phiri tells this writer that in the mid-1990s, Katete Secondary School had headmaster. Kadange V Mvula who improved and increased academic performance within a short time because of promoting hard work and high disciplinary measures among pupils at that school.
One can argue that rights of a child have been abused in the sense that they have been misapplied; leading to negative consequences not only to the same children but also to society and national development process at large.
However, some children are well behaved and doing very well at school in the same rights of a child environment. Therefore, while some children and some elderly people and officials are promoting rights of a child in abstract, some parents and some teachers are instilling discipline in their children to such an extent that some children are obeying their parents and teachers. This can be proved by how some children are well behaved and doing very well at school without examination malpractices.
Some teachers are refusing to instill any discipline in pupils; and argue that it is their (children’s) own future which will suffer. This is why even career guidance is low and poor in most schools.
Instilling discipline in children has now been left to NGOs and some officials in ZP-VSU who support that children can do anything in the name of rights of a child.
It is not surprising now to learn that after end of year school party, girls and boys are found drunk and lying down in the playgrounds around 22:30hours. Consequently, one learns from press reports that hundreds of school girls have fallen pregnant in a certain year.
While ZP-VSU and some CSOs have been accusing parents and teachers of violating the rights of child, the latter blame the former for abusing the rights of a child leading indiscipline, laziness poor academic performance and poor work culture.
It appears parents, teachers and churches weren’t consulted adequately on how rights of a child would be handled in our country. The schools results and other vices in children are a product of how rights of a child have been handled.
No one is against promoting rights of a child. But when one is promoting rights of a child, one should consider all necessary factors or else the same rights might disadvantage those they are supposed to serve.
*The author is trainer and career coach.
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