Our poor moral report

2013-08-19 10:00

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Of Good Report’s unbanning gives us a chance to watch a film that reflects reality

Petronella Tshuma, who plays 16-year-old Nolitha in the film of Good Report. One of the film’s themes, the prevalence of sugar daddies, holds up a mirror to this threat to the future of SA’s schoolgirls

Recently we observed with great interest the developments around the banning and eventual unbanning by the Film and Publication Board of the film Of Good Report.

With a past such as ours, it was hardly surprising that the banning of this film received so much attention and widespread condemnation from South African society.

The apartheid past makes it difficult for us not to react negatively when there is a ban of what is seen by many as a creative work of art intended to paint a picture of society.

As tempting as it is, I don’t want to delve into the debate as to whether the banning of the film was warranted.

For us in the education sector, this film is important in that it highlights the issue of improper relations between teachers and those they are supposed to impart knowledge to.

Beyond the controversy this film has stirred, it talks to the whole issue of moral degeneration and the urgent need for the regeneration and revival of our society’s moral fibre. The issue of moral regeneration and fighting social ills is what the ANC has decided to focus on more now than before.

As a leader of society, the ANC realises the issue of moral regeneration is at the core of our nation-building programme.

In our schools, the issue of unsavoury relations between teachers and learners still sticks out like a sore thumb.

I say this despite the fact that the majority of our teachers are responsible people who take the education of our children very seriously.

In 2001, a study by advocacy group Human Rights Watch reported that “for many South African girls, violence and abuse are an inevitable part of the school environment”.

This same study found that educators frequently misuse their authority and positions of trust to sexually abuse girls. We need to reflect intently on these findings, especially since this is a month in which we celebrate our women and girls.

One of the responsibilities of teachers in any society is to help mould the character of the young people entrusted to them. It is to build a total human being in terms of the values, morality and personalities of our children, thus producing law-abiding and responsible citizens.

This anomaly of adults taking advantage of children is not only confined to schools. The problem of “sugar daddies” in our society is one social ill we need to oppose with our lives.

When we talked to pupils during the social-ills conference earlier this year, young boys protested that they are not the ones responsible for the high numbers of learner pregnancies.

“It is those with money, which we don’t have, who impregnate most of the girls in our schools,” they said.

In KwaZulu-Natal alone, in 2010 we had 13?725 pupils who fell pregnant and, last year, we had 10?595. Although 2011 figures show a steady decline, 10?595 is still too many.

These figures are disturbing, but the context is even more overwhelming. The context is that there is a likelihood that more than half of these children may have contracted HIV or other sexually transmitted infections.

If Of Good Report is going to help open our eyes to these startling realities, then its subsequent unbanning was a sound decision.

According to the Youth Risk Behaviour Survey, nationally slightly more than 41% of pupils in grades 8 to 11 reported having had sex, 14.4% had their first sexual encounter at age 13 or younger and 54% had more than one sexual partner.

It will take nothing short of a revolution to reverse this trend.

South Africa has a significantly high prevalence of substance abuse, with alcohol being the most commonly abused substance. Last year’s You Decide Campaign found that:

»?At least 50% of teenagers in the average South African home drink alcohol;

»?At least 15% of boys and 8% of girls have had their first drink before age 13;

»?People who start drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to become alcoholics;

»?Teenagers who use alcohol are three times more likely to be involved in violent crimes;

»?At least 60% of grades 8

to 11 pupils who abused alcohol had to repeat their grades.

While the department of education in KwaZulu-Natal has the My Life! My Future! Campaign and the department of health has its Sugar Daddies campaign, fighting social ills needs more than such isolated campaigns.

As a society, we need to institutionalise our fight against social ills.

Improving the social conditions of our people can never be realised fully if we allow these maladies to eat the moral and social fibre of this society we sacrificed so much to build.

Our young people are not the proverbial “lost generation”, as many have been made to believe. Like any other generation, they have their own peculiar challenges.

We need to help them find meaning, assist them in finding their historic mission and continuously remind them that people like former president Nelson Mandela suffered so that they can enjoy the fruits of our hard-earned freedom.

Overcoming these persistent social ills will be a fitting tribute to young people like Solomon Mahlangu, who, instead of enjoying his youth, decided to lay down his life in order to let his blood nourish the tree that would bear the fruits of freedom.

If that can be achieved, the story of our moral and social fibre will indeed be of a very good report.

»?Mchunu is the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for education


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