SCHOOLS in Matabeleland North Province recorded shocking numbers of pupils who were raped and fell into child marriages while at least one was killed by another pupil.
Available statistics show that 46 cases of sexual abuse were reported, nine pupils dropped out of school due to early marriages and pregnancy in the province during the first term that ended last week.
Matabeleland North Provincial Educational Psychologist (PEP), Mr Michael Mache told The Chronicle that the statistics were from all the seven districts in the province – Binga, Bubi, Hwange, Tsholotsho, Nkayi, Lupane and Umguza.
“Of all these cases, Lupane has the highest figure with five deaths, nine cases of early pregnancies, nine cases of sexual abuse and eleven dropouts due to other reasons,” he said.
Mr Mache said many cases are never reported or are reported late making it difficult for school authorities to intervene.
“In most cases abuse cases are swept under the carpet by parents and perpetrators. This makes it very difficult to help the victim and our guidance and counselling members find it hard to investigate and counsel pupils,” he said.
Mr Mache said they have not established reasons for some deaths while some involve alleged murder and suicide.
“In Binga at Malinda Primary School there is a pupil who killed a school mate, in Lupane we received a suicide case and we are yet to identify other cases,” he said.
Mr Mache said it is difficult to trace all cases as some of the learners do not have identification documents.
“This is a worrisome issue in Matabeleland North. Most of our children do not have birth certificates. In the case of us trying to pursue the case whether with the police or other relevant stakeholders, we get stuck as we can’t produce the identity of the child,” he said.
Mr Mache said whenever a case is reported, children are counselled.
“Teachers conduct individual and group counselling and they bring serious cases to my office and we hold them there. We also engage their parents or guardians especially on gross cases of sexual abuse,” he said.
In an interview, the Acting Provincial Director (PED) Buhle Siziba said they are worried about the figures.
She said to address this issue, 28 teachers from all districts formed an association to intensify guidance and counselling, but the association needs funding to be fully established.
“We are worried by the rate at which our children die, get abused and drop out of school. This is a serious issue that needs teachers to come up with a strong guidance and counselling programme to sit down and understand problems that learners are going through,” she said.
“These are passionate teachers who approached us with the idea of starting an association, a good initiative that we welcomed and we are glad to say that our province now has a strong guidance and counselling association.”