Many pupils are absconding lessons to play video games in the Harare central business district (CBD), NewsDay can reveal.
A visit to some gaming facilities in the CBD showed that most of the pupils, who attend mainly private colleges which have sprouted over the years, often abscond lessons to play games.
“We come here often to beat boredom and some times we never get into the school premises,” confessed one pupil who only identified himself as Tanaka.
Some students said they bribed security guards to pay out for their “freedom”. “There are bouncers who monitor the movement of pupils at our college and they do not allow pupils to go out during learning time, but we bribe our way out,” added Tanaka.
Many pupils ranging from primary to secondary levels could be seen deeply engrossed in games at popular gaming venues in town. An “A” Level student Alfonso said they were mature enough to plan their time ahead so that they could have enough to play pool.
“All work without play makes us dull. We need time to refresh and no one should tell us when to attend lessons,” he said. “We read on our own. Teachers dictate notes and we can surf the information on the Internet. We are not losing out.”
An employee at a gaming centre said they did not monitor pupils and it was not their business to establish whether or not pupils were supposed to be in school at that particular time.
“It is not our job to monitor who gets here. We are doing business and I must say our biggest catch are young people and we assume that these pupils are responsible. We never thought they would be bunking lessons,” he said.
A teacher at a school in Harare, Sindiso Hove, said students were increasingly becoming rebellious and no longer exercised discipline.
“This is disturbing. We also have cases where pupils are playing games and surfing on the Internet on their phones while the teacher is delivering a lesson,” she said.
Internet cafés were usually filled with young people, often surfing social networks. Many youths, some in school uniforms, spend many hours surfing the Internet without parental supervision.
A 17-year-old girl, who identified herself as Tariro, said she spent a lot of time surfing the Internet under the ruse of “researching”, but once on the Internet she dedicated most of her time to networking through her Facebook account.
Parents said they were not aware that their children ended up playing games in the city during learning time.
“We send children to ‘good’ schools in town so that they can get education. We never know that these kids end up loitering in town or playing video games. School authorities should not allow pupils to go out during undesignated time,” said Viola Mombeshona, a parent.
Sociologist Pardon Taodzera said apart from wasting learning time, video games have negative impact on the development of children.
“Simply put, the amount of time spent playing video games has a negative correlation with academic performance. Playing violent games has a positive correlation with anti-social and aggressive behaviour,” he said.
“Most of the bad effects of video games are blamed on the violence they contain. Children who play more violent video games are more likely to have increased aggressive thoughts, feelings and behaviour, and decreased pro-social helping.”
The effect of video game violence in kids is worsened by the games’ interactive nature. In many games, kids are rewarded for being more violent, he said.
He added: “The act of violence is done repeatedly (in the games). The child is in control of the violence and experiences the violence in his own eyes (killings, kicking, stabbing and shooting). This active participation, repetition and reward are effective tools for learning behaviour. Indeed, many studies seem to indicate that violent video games may be related to aggressive behaviour.”
Harare-based medical practitioner Mlungisi Ndebele said there were physical consequences associated with game addiction.
“These children are showing signs of addiction. Bunking lessons to play games is not healthy at all and some of the consequences include migraine headaches, which typically start in one spot and slowly spread, getting more painful as they progress.
“In severe cases, the pain can be so extreme that it causes the sufferer to vomit. Light and noise can cause excruciating pain.
“Someone who plays video games for extended periods of time is more prone to migraines because of the intense concentration required and the strain put on the eyes,” he said.