Adults are used to dictating to children so much that they often forget that young people also have a right to be heard.
Recently, MPs from the outgoing junior Parliament of 2010 during their debate on issues affecting children opened up on several issues, including the taboo subject of sex.
The controversial issue of whether condoms should be supplied to schoolchildren comes in the wake of non-governmental organisations recently standing for children’s rights and some parents castigating the National Aids Council endeavours to have them distributed saying instead schoolchildren should be taught absolute abstinence.
But, during debate by the former junior parliamentarians as they made their goodbye speeches, one former MP said adults should know it is a reality that school children also indulged in sex.
“The Ministry of Education should consult children themselves whenever they are making policies that affect them,” said the former Junior Minister of Health and Child Welfare, Ezekiel Chivasa.
“Early marriages are caused by pre-marital sex and we want condoms to be distributed everywhere because you cannot stop the youth from having sex, but you can save them from contracting and distributing HIV,” said Chivasa.
Chivasa said the Education ministry should also investigate situations whereby teachers were smoking dagga with students at some schools, thus encouraging bad behaviour.
The former junior MPs were also sensitive to the needs of their teachers, whom they said were so underpaid that it affected their performance.
“We want salary increments for our teachers because they cannot work with their stomachs empty and at the same time they need to support their families,” said the former Junior Minister of Youth, Development and Employment Creation, Tsitsi Karorozvi.
The mushrooming of private colleges in the country was also castigated by the former junior Parliamentarians, who said they were negatively affecting the standard of education in Zimbabwe.
“We have seen a lot of private colleges mushrooming, but they do not even offer subjects like sports and culture,” said Blessing Chiripanhura, the former Junior Governor for Harare Province.
Former Junior MP for Highfield West, Leroy Dauka said the private colleges should be banned as they were merely ‘fashion parade centres’.
“The Ministry of Education should also work with Zimsec to ensure there are no missing results for major exams. Something should be done because there is no compensation for those children with missing results and they end up repeating,” said Junior Minister of Tourism, Vimbai Mafotchwa.
The former junior MPs also demanded that amongst the rights of children there should be the right to participate in drafting the National Budget, as well as have an allocation for the junior Parliament from the fiscus.
“There must be a budget for the junior Parliament and junior MPs should be paid so that they can pay fees for themselves,” said former Mutare Central Junior MP, Marcia Gudhlanga.
“We should be involved in the National Budget so that as junior MPs we get allocated money to enable us to cater for street children,” said former Junior MP for Mufakose, Hulk Willmore.
The justice system was also castigated for its loopholes in dealing with rape cases.
“There is corruption in the judicial services whereby children who have been raped do not get compensated as the perpetrators of these offences would have bribed the authorities,” said a former junior senator, Mike Kusineta.
“Young people are not reporting rape cases because the perpetrators are mostly their guardians and they fear they will not have anyone to look after them once the guardian is arrested,” said former junior Senate President, Nkosana Ncube.
“There are also certain religions that marry off girls at a young age and refuse medical attention to children. We want government to compel them to respect children’s rights,” added junior Mashonaland East Governor, George Chasara.
Kuwadzana East junior MP, Tariro Muranda and junior MP, Charlene Mbwana said Zesa should improve its power supplies as excessive load shedding was affecting education.
“Load-shedding is brain-shedding and I suggest that the issue of electricity be looked at,” said Mbwana.
Former junior Bulawayo governor Nothando Msimanga called for an end to politically-motivated violence being perpetrated on youths.
Former Junior Vice-President Nompilo Nkomo demanded transparency in the manner in which scholarships were being awarded, saying that mostly children from rich families were benefitting instead of the disadvantaged.
Former junior Senate President, Nkosana Ncube demanded that there should be decentralisation of the junior Parliament and said that can only be possible if it was funded.
The former junior MPs also questioned some unfair practices they observed happening during their term of office, where they were promised Econet cellphones but received none to date.
“The senior ministers and MPs are motivated by their cars, but what about the junior MPs? In 2010 we were told we were going to receive cellphones to be supplied by Econet, but up to now we received nothing. We want government to implement what they have promised,” said Kudzai Zimunya, the former junior MP for Highfields.
A former junior MP representing the disabled, Prudence Sakupwanya, who is the former junior Governor for Manicaland, said the government should improve learning systems for the disabled, including remuneration of specialist teachers for the disabled so that they got motivated.
On the constitution-making process, former junior President, Nigel Gwanzura said MPs in the 2010 junior Parliament contributed their views but had not been guaranteed that what they said was going to be part of the new constitution.
Gwanzura said as the outgoing MPs left to make way for a new set of junior parliamentarians for 2011, they hoped they left a mark by succeeding in getting a Bill of Rights on free primary school education and free basic medical care for children enshrined in the new constitution.