Teachers’ union warns of surge in child abuse incidents
Irene Githinji @gitshee
The Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) has called for urgent measures to protect minors against rampant exploitation, ranging from sexual abuse, domestic violence and child labour.
This is, especially so with the prolonged holiday, since the schools are now expected to resume in January next year owing to the growing coronavirus disease trends.
Kuppet Secretary General Akelo Misori argues that since no one can foretell when the coronavirus pandemic will ease for normal learning to resume, there is urgent need to put up measures to protect children.
The union has since urged Education Cabinet Secretary, Prof. George Magoha to convene a multi-agency task force and civil society actors to explore ways of revamping the child protection system.
“As part of the coronavirus recovery plan, the government must urgently revitalise the systems for child protection.
As a union, the unfolding crisis is a wake-up call. Teachers are on the receiving end of the debate because parents and society have abdicated their roles to teachers to not only teach, but also provide moral guidance to their children,” Misori said.
The spokesman of the teachers’ union said closure of schools has resulted in rampant abuse of children in the country.
Reports indicate that there has been a sharp rise in cases of child labour, sexual exploitation and domestic violence. He said by far the most concerning was the report that hundreds of school girls got pregnant in the first three months of the lockdown.
Kuppet is now recommending robust law enforcement to be applied more vigorously by identifying and punishing adults preying on school girls.
He said education officers at the sub-county and zonal level should be empowered to receive reports of sexual abuse of school going children and to follow them up with local administrators and prosecutors to ensure faster resolution of cases of sexual offences.
The union also wants the Judiciary to give priority to cases of sexual offences during this pandemic and to interpret the law correctly.
“Alarming as the figures on the pregnancies might be, they are only the tip of an iceberg. The fact is that our youth are in a grave crisis that the coronavirus pandemic has only exposed,” he added.
He noted that youth are victims of economic, social and moral decay that has been underway for decades and while there are wide inequalities between regional, ethnic and social demographics, young Kenyans are bearing the brunt of neglect that the school environment only camouflaged, but cannot address.
The Ministry of Public Service and Youth, said Kuppet, should immediately explore means to establish a borstal institution per county to deal with child offenders.
As far as long-term approaches towards enhancing child protection are concerned, Misori called for creation of community systems for foster care.
“The Government should enact legislation to provide for development of foster homes through community involvement.
These homes should provide care, shelter, food and guidance to vulnerable children,” said Misori.
He also said that laws against pornography and illegal sexual content should be strictly enforced. He said teenage pregnancy carries huge challenges for young mothers and are at higher risk of premature birth, low birth weight, peri-natal death and maternal mortality.
“In many cases, teenage mothers resort to abortion, which also carries grave risks including death, loss of child-bearing capacity, emotional trauma and other long-term effects,” he regretted.
On the other hand, male adolescents have experienced high rates of crime during the coronavirus lockdown, with many cases of burglary, robbery, and drug abuse reported across the country.
In cases where under-age boys have fathered children, he explained that they also suffer from social trauma.
“There is no doubt, therefore, that many parents, relatives and leaders in our communities are heart-broken at the level of societal break-down the youth have endured during this pandemic,” he concluded.