Mixed feelings over driving learners

Musendekwa, who is believed to have been involved in a car racing challenge with fellow schoolmates, was on his way to collect his siblings from their respective schools.

TWO weeks ago, a dark cloud engulfed Harare as Upper Sixth student and deputy head boy of St George’s College, Ashley Musendekwa, died in a horrific car accident along Harare Drive in Marlborough.

The accident was a head-on collision between Musendekwa’s car and a heavy truck.

Musendekwa, who is believed to have been involved in a car racing challenge with fellow schoolmates, was on his way to collect his siblings from their respective schools.

His family denies he was racing.

The death shocked the country and raised many questions, sparking the debate on social media whether it is right to allow children to drive themselves to school.

The horrifying incident also comes in the wake of a growing phenomenon of what can best be termed “school-run”, a routine most working parents, especially the elite, detest as it is considered to be tiresome and time consuming.

The affluent ones, as in the case of the schoolboy’s, have chosen to trust their children with cars, but the results have been catastrophic at times.

Musendekwa’s uncle Tungamirai Owen, talking to a local weekly, described the late teen as a responsible youth leader who could be entrusted with responsibilities.

“As parents, we read a lot of things, but we want to dispel some falsehoods. Ashley was not that irresponsible. It just so happened that there is no such person whom he is said to have been racing with,” he said.

“You know, when accidents happen, narratives are so different. He was a very responsible man whom, as parents, we felt we should give a car to drive to school.”

Owen further described Ashley as an ambitious and brilliant young man who had bigger dreams in life.

His mother attributed the death of her son to providence.

She said in the same interview with the weekly that her son, whom she described as “very responsible”, had foreseen his own death.

However, parents who spoke to NewsDay Weekender highlighted mixed emotions over the issue, with the majority blaming elite parents for spoiling their children rotten.

“Some of the bad things that happen such as this accident in particular really are the fault of the parents.

“From a young age, these children from affluent homes get away with anything and are spoilt to the core. Imagine parents who give their children of school-going age a car to drive knowing exactly how well that car might turn into a distraction?” queried one Cecilia Techu, a parent from Kuwadzana.

“To be honest, this phenomenon of letting children drive to school is new to us. Maybe this is what the new generation has come to, I don’t know,” added another parent who requested anonymity.

“Rich people have a tendency of showing off and they think it’s classy to send their children to school driving. It’s such a sad incident that could have easily been avoided,” added Gilbert Tazira from Dzivarasekwa 3.

However some parents were more sympathetic, saying it was not wrong for parents to spoil their children with cars if they can afford, as circumstances differed.

“Honestly, the mode of living differs from one household to another. If (parents) can afford to have their children drive to school, let them do so.

“You never know the pressure under which they are. Some parents work hectic hours and cannot afford to pick their children from school and, as such, entrusting them with cars becomes an easy option,” said Jennipher Francis.

Primary and Secondary Education ministry communications and advocacy director Taungana Ndoro told NewsDay Weekender that there was a need for relevant ministries and stakeholders to come up with a policy to regulate the driving of schoolchildren to school.

“The ministry’s position on this cannot be conclusive because a driver’s licence is issued by another ministry when someone attains the age of 16 years. They are eligible to drive as they are given an identity document by the Ministry of Home Affairs and can access a driver’s licence.

“When they get a driver’s licence, they are allowed to drive on the country’s roads, and what can the ministry do to say they are not supposed to drive?” Ndoro queried.

“This is a law that needs a multi-sectoral approach if there is anybody in the relevant sectors who feels that there should be changes. The ministry can only be a participant and not an authority to determine who goes to school driving or not.”

Ndoro, however, said as a ministry, they continuously play a key role by ensuring that there is discipline among the pupils within and outside the school premises.

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the police had a number of activities they have embarked on to promote safe driving by pupils.

“We embark on awareness campaigns in schools and mostly, we do it in partnership with the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe,” he said.

“Besides that, we also urge parents to cultivate values of safe driving in their children, especially those that can afford to have their children drive to school.”

Nyathi said some of the accidents involving children of school-going age were a result of peer pressure to engage in activities that result in the loss of life.

“Children must not give in to peer pressure because their future is important.”

He further bemoaned that the minimum age of driving, which is 16, is not a good yardstick to measure maturity.

“It’s a process. We are saying we would rather prefer it if parents were to defer giving their children cars until they are mature enough,” Nyathi said.

Efforts to get a comment from St George’s College were fruitless as their phones continually rang unanswered.

NewsDay Weekender sought to find out from the school authorities what kind of counselling activities the school had done in the wake of the accident, which must have left some students traumatised.

Related Topics