This week I thought I would be writing about the politics in the region especially in Kenya and Rwanda where general elections are slated for the month of August.
In Kenya the politicians are out of the blocks traversing the vast country convincing people to wake up on polling day and vote for them. The electoral body is still fighting off some credibility issues some of which have been settled by the courts.
In Rwanda those coveting the top most office have just finished presenting their documents to the electoral body and now wait for the final list to see if they have made the crucial move from aspirants to being candidates.
As the country waits for the next step in this electoral process there seems to be a lot of talk on social media about the call (made by the President) for young people to join politics instead of sitting and watching from the sidelines.
Sticking with young people, a couple of bizarre events in the recent days have had me thinking about young people and education. It appears to me that there are certain education issues that are clearly misunderstood and it is a cause for concern or even worry.
For example there was a prominent educationist who passed away in Uganda and his education legacy probably followed him in the grave.
The sight of several young orphans at his funeral sparked rumours that he had actually been having sexual relations with some of his students in the various secondary schools he managed.
This sparked heated debates on social media with some defending him while others condemned him. In all that noise what bothered me most were the people who insinuated that if these secondary school students were above 18 then there was no problem with them having intimate relations with the school head.
That line of argument bothered me so much because it proved that some people do not understand the fact that sexual relations between a teacher and a student happen in an uneven setting given the authority one has over the other which creates a major power imbalance that compromises the judgement of the student.
A teacher is there to teach the same way a learner goes to school to learn, not to indulge in sexual relations especially with those responsible for educating them.
Also, on Monday, the Tanzanian leader shocked many when he said that school girls who give birth should not be allowed to return to school.
That statement was really unfortunate because denying girls an education because they got pregnant while is school is actually punishing them twice. The phrase ‘Education for All’ has been around long enough to have sunk in the minds of our leaders.
And it is premised on the fact that access to education is a human right and therefore pregnancy or child birth cannot be grounds for denying anyone an education.
Even before we can go into whether teenage mothers should be in school or not, we should acknowledge that they are a result of limited education – sex education. In other words, not only do they need to access education like anyone else, but they are proof that sex education also needs to be improved if we are to reduce teenage pregnancies.
Girls in most communities were marginalised and for that reason many governments embarked on affirmative action mechanisms to address the gender gap in access to education.
Punishing pregnant school girls by denying them education is backward in a time when all global efforts are aimed at seeing more girls enrolled in school. Victimising them only serves to ruin their future.
Let me end by commending President Uhuru Kenyatta for committing to have girls receiving sanitary pads from government so as to stay in school. This is a major development as far as girls’ education is concerned.
In rural areas especially, girls are known to miss school when their periods come because they cannot afford sanitary pads. Women activists lobby governments to either remove taxes levied on sanitary pads or to hand out the same to the poor so they can attend school and not miss out while boys are studying.
I hope that what Kenyatta signed is not just a vote winning gimmick since Kenya is already in election mood and the politicians are promising heaven on earth. The biggest promise now is that of free secondary school education. At the end of the day we should not joke with education unless we are ready to have a future that is joke.Follow https://twitter.com/ssojo81