Casual sex among youths is a sad reality in South Africa.
The Jules High School saga in Johannesburg -- in which a female student was allegedly gang-raped while her classmates watched and videotaped -- is one of many recent horrible and all-too-real scenarios from our schools. Whatever the outcome of this story, it is reason enough to take a closer look at how schools seem to have become dangerous breeding grounds for sexual promiscuity.
What's worse, this sexual incident which happened on school grounds, during school hours, at a school with teachers and prefects to supervise, says to me as a parent that I can never afford to be in the ‘my kid is safe at school’ mode.
Of course the education system is surely failing us if this is allowed to occur while paid staff is meant to be supervising, isn't it?
But is it really the sole responsibility of the headmaster to ensure that your child becomes a morally upright citizen?
As 21st century parents we are caught up in the rat race of trying to earn a living which often means we spend less time at home with our children and more at work chasing deadlines, commissions, promotions, etc.
Even when we are at home with them we are ‘strategising’ for work or cuddling our laptops while the children play in their bedrooms or in the garden or wherever suits them. More upsetting, their eyes are usually just in one room, glued to trash coming through what we call ‘technological advancement’.
Television and Internet provide a wide range of corruptive filth that is available to the rich and poor alike. A friend of mine recently told me she'd had a visitor in her home that had made fun of her for not having DSTV.
Great as this resource is to mature adults; its usefulness to a 10-year-old is questionable. Packaged deals are purchased according to adult choice but discretion is often unexercised when considering who the other viewers are likely to be. And what messages are our children getting from the broadcasts? They are being brainwashed into thinking the world of celebrity, sex and American consumerism is a reality they want to emulate.
So blame the broadcaster for the messaging and the type of uncensored stuff they are putting on air? The question really is what we parents have done to go the extra mile in censoring what those little eyes see.
Ok, so we have to buy hi-tech so our kids keep up with the other kids and so we compensate for the times we spend away at work when we should have been parenting. Our children now have their own laptops with Internet access. They browse and download 24/7 and we parents pay the bills but never monitor what's coming through.
Then there is the music they listen to and easy, endlessly available pornography downloads. The list goes on, potential loss of innocence and corruption of virtue around every corner, on every screen.
So am I saying that technology is to blame? "Technology has tainted our kids," we cry. But the question seems to be: Where were you when it was happening?
For the sake of the children and for the sake of a morally sound future generation the answer is for parents to get out of the stupor and fight precepts that condone and perpetuate violence and sexism, invading through the technology that we also benefit from.
Whatever happened to the teachings we received from our grandmothers as we were growing up. The lessons of ‘you have to keep yourself for the right one’ and ‘keep your legs crossed until you first finish school?’
Even the words abstinence and virginity have fast become taboo in this era where sex has become a commercialised commodity and in the place of these ancient words we find the ‘condomise’ doctrine.
Can we not pause and pass down the principles which have preserved us and generations before us? This laissez faire approach to parenting is costly and we are losing many lives to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.
As the age of first sexual encounter continues to decrease, our children are placed at increased risk from an earlier age to the dreadful virus. And this situation is not restricted to schools.
As a parent I can put in the effort to censor what my kids see on TV and to lay down principles. We all need to spend more time helping our children find their moral compass.
Indeed, when it comes to the Jules High School case, the justice system so often blamed has in this instance to be hailed for addressing a truth we are rarely willing to admit: our children have been brainwashed by the so called pop culture they ascribe to.
Parents, if we are going to bring up a morally acceptable future generation, it's our job to get out there and provide some "rehabilitation" for our sexually curious (and increasingly active) children. No one is going to do it for us.
- Mercilene Machisa is the Gender Links Justice Programme Officer. This article is part of the GL series for the 16 Days of Activism (link to: http://www.genderlinks.org.za/page/16-days-of-activism-2010). It is republished here with the permission of Gender Links (link to: www.genderlinks.org.za), a Southern African NGO founded in 2001 that is committed to a region in which women and men are able to participate equally in all aspects of public and private life in accordance with the provisions of the Southern African Development Community Protocol on Gender and Development.