As I sit here and try to get my thoughts together for my project, I can’t help but flash back to all the Facebook posts I’ve seen with reference to the recent abuse claims leveled against a well known teacher in my country.
I do have issues with this teacher as I am a teacher/lecturer (on hiatus). This is not what my profession is about. My profession is about creating a safe environment where children/students can express themselves. The safe space is to foster their growth, not just in the subjects I teach, but growth in themselves. Teachers might not be the most important people in students’ lives but they are indirectly seen as role models for those whose futures they help to mold.
As a person trained in the field of journalism and someone who prides herself on being a critical thinker, I will state that I don’t have all the facts to say if he guilty or not guilty. I don’t know the individuals making allegations, I cannot personally vouch for their credibility. In addition, all of the ‘supporting’ evidence are being shared via social media by individuals who are referencing what they ‘heard’ – they are not the victims but secondary sources. I have not see any concrete evidence so far (maybe I missed those posts). However, I do feel that there are too many accusations being made to dismiss this as a disgruntled ex-girlfriend and her current boyfriend victimizing the teacher. If people are willing to reference incidents they know about via their personal facebook pages and open themselves up to public scrutiny then they must have evidence; they must have reasons to believe the victims who were brave enough to share their stories. That is good enough for me, for now, to support the call for actions to be taken against this teacher. He should be suspended and an investigation launched immediately.
The funny thing is that the biggest issue I have, with this particular story, is with the headmistress of the school. The way she held an assembly with the female students once the incident became and proceeded to slut-shamed and (re)victimize these impressionable young women was wrong! There is proof of what she did and she should be immediately suspended, I’d go so far as to say fired! She does have a right to her opinions and to support her colleague if she feels that he is being wronged but not by humiliating and intimidating those under her charge. She is an individual entrusted with safeguarding those children/minors and what she did is wrong. There are no “ifs” or “buts” at all!
We need to address this and FAST! The culture of child abuse is gaining more publicity and all the “hush hush” incidents are coming to light. Let’s get things in motion to ensure that what we deal with are past incidents and that the alley ways for possible future abuse are blocked! There are numerous literature available on “What is child abuse?”, “Signs of child abuse.”, “How to talk to children about child abuse.” and so forth. There are no ends of the discussions in the media, etc. now. There needs to be action! We need to stop discussing and start doing – stop regurgitating. We need to be PROACTIVE!
In my opinion, there seems to be one big thing missing.
We need to empower the (possible) victims – the children/youth/minors. We have entrusted adults too much in the past, many who have failed from the magnitude of reports in the media, etc. now. It is a time to focus on equipping the children with the knowledge and the avenues to address abuse – from the simplest feeling of being leered at to actual sexual abuse. Talk to the children from the time they can understand, let them know what behaviors are not acceptable, let them know what safe environments exist where they can report problems. It’s been too long that “sex” and topics around “sex” are seen as taboo – as ‘adult’ things. When our children, our future, are being treated like adults by predators, we need to let them know it’s okay to simply say the word “sex” in the presence of adults and to talk about it openly so that they know they can express themselves.
How do I propose we empower them? I’m sure there are a lot of things experts can suggest. As a communication major, use of ‘media’ comes to mind. By extension, these ideas are running around in my mind:
- Have one hour sessions in schools about social issues, each week – make it a norm. Each week can be used to discuss a different issue or different aspect of the issues with creative activities to ensure information is retained. Creating awareness is step one for combating any problem!
- Conduct these sessions by classes – like any other subject being taught. Do not separate based on gender as that creates barriers that we don’t need. The era of teaching boys and girls separately about social issues is over. If they cannot see all perspectives then how can they fully understand?
- Encourage students to talk to other students. Encourage them to look for signs of abuse in others and to encourage possible victims to open up about problems. It is easier for children to talk to each other as opposed to an adult in some instances. In addition, they should know that they have nothing to be ashamed of that the person who is wrong is the predator!
- Create a public space where children can share information with other children as the main target audience and then the wider society as the secondary audience. Let them be the creators of the content based on their understandings since the adult created content are not really making an impact. Adults can be there to guide only, not direct or take an active role. Let the children use media to tell their own stories! Facebook has been used a lot lately to say a lot – why not encourage groups of children to create Pages where they can do this?
- Oh! We also need to STOP VICTIM BLAMING, slut shaming and all those unsavory things!!!
In conclusion, yet again I say EMPOWER THEM! GIVE THEM THE TOOLS TO TAKE THE LEAD, with the support of trusted adults!