Monday, July 22, 2024

SCHOOLS SHOULD STOP ABUSING CHILDREN

While walking into the banking hall of one of the commercial banks in the main mall, a young innocent looking girl approached me with a sponsored walk form in her hands.

Without much ado, I quickly scanned the introductory message on the form and noticed it had a genuine Gaborone City Council official stamp.

Having satisfied myself of the authenticity of the requisition paper, I took out my hard-earned five pula coin and gave it to the child and then I proceeded to note down my details and sign for the mega donation using the pencil she provided. I then went inside the bank to join the usual queues. I was done with the bank task in approximately forty-five minutes and as I left the bank with a friend, the young girl confronted us and I talked my friend into making a hefty contribution so that the young soul could get some satisfaction from the accumulated monies and get back home in time.

As my friend was putting down his details and signing for his contribution, I realized my details were missing ÔÇô my name, contact details and the figure for the amount I contributed had been erased. I got shocked, annoyed and stupid but did not want to cause a scene by scolding the child. This encounter has been bothering me for a while now but I was determined to let it go. Recently, I saw small boys asking for monetary donations and this evoked my past encounter with the young girl at the Main Mall. I then resolved that I was going to have none of it because I did not want to become a victim of polite mugging and appear stupid for the second time. A walk is one of the popular ways of raising money for various activities. Now and then, school children are given sponsored walk forms to solicit funds from whoever may care to make a donation.

Admittedly, sponsored walks have raised money for many good causes.
Other than raising money, a walk can be fun and enjoyable for both children and adults undertaking it. It is an active way to raise money while also helping participants to keep fit.

Additionally, well organized and coordinated sponsored walk could be educative and could nurture a giving and compassionate behavior in communities as people generously make contributions to help whenever necessary. Young people engaged in soliciting funds may also benefit in that the activity cultivates a sense of giving, serving and volunteerism at an early age. It develops ideas of philanthropic work and acts of helping and sharing with others, especially the underprivileged members of the society. It nurtures a kind of missionary work. Unfortunately, most sponsored walks are organized and managed solely to raise funds. Incidental and extra benefits such as site seeing are hardly catered for, which perhaps explains why most of them are often boring and tiresome.

Routes chosen by the organizers are often lousy and, in some cases, dangerous and unsafe. They are hardly spiced with educational opportunities and fun. At the extreme end, sponsored walks have become an easy way for many establishments to raise funds for various activities, some of which are quite dubious.

Some schools for instance, go to the extent of using school children to fund raise for teachers’ Christmas or farewell parties. Consequently, it seems to me that this concept of sponsored walk for charity is being abused and in some extreme poses danger to our children.

Children being what they are, often take fundraising very seriously, usually interpreting it as part of their continuous assessment in class. Consequently, they find it mandatory to get as many sponsors in an unofficial battle to outdo each other and endear themselves to the school management.

They would abandon their books immediately they arrive home after school to spend the entire afternoon begging for sponsorship in shopping centers or crawling from door to door confronting rapists, pedophiles and muti-men in their backyard as if they have been given strict instructions to bring lot of monies or risk ridicule or expulsion from school. The core of my concern is that instead of teaching our children philanthropic or missionary work and civic responsibility, sponsored walks teach children the fine techniques of street begging, cheating, stealing and mugging to make decent bucks.

While parents alert children to be cagey with strangers, fundraising by begging for donations in the streets teach our children to trust everyone to the extent of entering homesteads of people they are not familiar with, thus risking sexual molestation, kidnapping and murder.

This world is not innocent as we have in our midst people with bizarre plans and often children are their easy targets.

Teaching children to somewhat ‘befriend’ strangers give such people with evil motives easy opportunities. It is possible that many could have already fallen victim to such monsters but because of their immature minds, many could take abuse ÔÇô sexual, physical and emotional ÔÇô as something to feel good about, the price of growing up.

For instance, it is known that as they grow up, young girls usually take fondling as good touching and playfulness and may never report such experiences. Schools reach the greatest number of children and it is unimaginable how many of these children learn the art of begging and mugging from fundraising for school-based charity work and how many have been abused in the line of this duty.

Against this background, it is suggested that the Ministry of Education and Skills Development look into this concept and perhaps draw guidelines for fundraising through sponsored walk in public schools.

The issue should also be discussed in Parent Teachers’ Associations (PTA) meetings to brainstorm on how best to use it for raising funds with a view to protecting children from possible harm.
Parents could also petition the Minister of Education to address the issue as a matter of urgency, failing which childcare and protection agencies should intervene before our children are kidnapped and sold to cannibals.

The Gaborone City Council Bye-law office should also exercise extreme caution and be vigilant in validating sponsorship forms. Otherwise it seems very easy to get the City Council approval stamp for whatever cause in a way that aid crooks to swindle unsuspecting citizens willing to give and share.

There is certainly a high level of complacency in approving requests for donations from various parties by the Council authorities. Otherwise if this issue is not urgently attended to, citizens could in future become very reluctant to make monetary donations to charitable organizations regardless of their profiles. Gradually people are getting fatigued by sponsorship requests most of which are clearly undeserving wicked and corrupt.

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