Children need society’s firm hand of protection

ELSEWHERE in this issue we carry a harrowing story of about 20 school children who were allegedly sodomised at a school in Maseru.

The sexual assault of the children, which went on right in front of the noses of the school authorities, raises questions about what exactly is going on behind our school walls.

But despite the principal frantically trying to put a veil of secrecy on the subject, we believe society has a right to know what is going on.

Only when society is fully informed about what is going on will we find lasting remedies to our social ills.

The sodomy case is a grave one particularly because of the risk of serious sexually transmitted infections for these children.

The matter thus raises serious questions about the safety of children in our schools.

We are shocked that the principal at the school in question sought to downplay the sexual assault describing the incidents  as “mere children’s play”.

Such an attitude is plainly unacceptable.

That the principal failed to report this matter to education authorities raises serious questions about her competence, let alone her suitability to run the school.

We cannot rule out that the sexual assaults which have been going on for months could have been perpetrated by much older students who can be prosecuted under the law.

Some of the victims are said to be as young as eight. If this does not horrify you, nothing will.

But to us it is clear that an offence was committed and that some corrective action needed to be taken against the perpetrators regardless of their age.

We expect the police and education authorities to delve deeper into this scandal to expose the rot.

Such a full-scale probe is important to nip the problem in the bud and protect innocent children.

In a country with the third highest HIV incidence rate in the world it is important that minors are made aware of the risks of engaging in unprotected sex.

They need to be informed that sex is not a risk-free business that they can engage in and get away with it.

There will be consequences.

We also think it is important that vulnerable children receive care and protection particularly from individuals entrusted to care for minors.

There are an estimated 180 000 orphans in Lesotho the majority of them having lost their parents to Aids, according to Unicef.

These children have lost a protective shield and nurturing environment that a normal family would provide.

They need our protection and care.

Luckily Lesotho already has the necessary legislation to deal with children’s rights and their protection.

Under the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act 2010 no child below the age of 10 can be prosecuted for a criminal offence.

The law says the  state must formulate policies which will ensure that every child who is alleged to have infringed the law is treated in a manner consistent with his dignity and that he is integrated into society.

It is true that the children involved in the sodomy might be minors.

But the Ha-Abia incident could be an indicator of a wider social crisis that is threatening to explode in our schools.

We believe young children, vulnerable as they are, need society’s firm hand of protection.

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