A letter to men

SHARE   |   Monday, 16 May 2016   |   By Unity Dow
A letter to men

This letter is addressed to all you men who have engaged in sexual relations with young girls, especially in cases where a pregnancy has resulted. One of you, Cllr. Kemmonye Amon, a Councillor from Sebina, has publicly admitted to having undermined my ministry’s efforts to give every Motswana child access to education. He has, according to media reports, made a 16 (17?) year old girl pregnant. He is just one of you, for there were 407 girls who dropped out of school due to pregnancy, in the past 12 months. Some of these girls were young enough to be your children, perhaps even your grandchildren. Cllr. Amon is therefore not alone, but it was his activities of about five or so months ago that have lit the passions of people, young and old; across political, religious and educational divides – people who are saying “enough is enough!” People are demanding discipline, self-respect and accountability, but above all else, a little regard for the lives of those weaker than you - weaker physically, weaker financially, weaker status wise. When you, all of you, chose to have sex with these children, you were making a statement; that their futures do not matter.

Each one of these girls was born unique and different; and had you not entered their lives, they could have had a totally different future. Each one of these girls had to navigate the intricate path that is life, but unfortunately, they chanced upon you. Each one of these girls had, like everyone, faced personal challenges, and perhaps, during an unguarded moment, a few Pulas, a few units or a drink offered by you, led them into a trap. Each one of these girls had dreams, but you dashed them. Had that little girl not met you, she would have stayed in school and received a decent education and then:
Her chances of her being poor would have been reduced. The likelihood that she would one day contribute to the economic growth of her family and that of her country would have been enhanced. 

Her chances of having a healthy life would have been increased.
Her chances of dying during pregnancy and childbirth and her baby being malnourished or even dying would have been reduced.
She would have been less likely to get diseases such as HIV and AIDS.
She would have been more likely to stand up for her rights; as a woman, a worker, etc.
She would be less likely to get entangled in yet another relationship, out of desperation.
She would be less likely to have additional unplanned babies or more babies than she can afford to support.

You see, education is one of the most important investments a country can make in its people and its future and you have just undermined that effort. I am sure you know, and that indeed you knew, even as you decided to take chances with the lives of school girls who are now pregnant or mothers that: Once a girl leaves school pregnant, her chances of ever re-entering the education system would be very limited; not because the Ministry of Education does not re-admit teenage mothers, but because motherhood is a full time job and raising a baby is very expensive. Even if, when you were first confronted with the consequences of your actions, you were scared enough to pay a few Pulas, once everyone looks away, you too will move on and never pay child support. Your child will most probably grow up in poverty, raised by a young, single mother and s/he may in turn have low attachment to and performance in school.

In fact, research tell us that your child, the one you have or will have, with the teenage mother, can be expected to have a whole host of problems – all because her mother was too young to be pregnant, too young to be a mother, had limited resources, left school early and was in a desperate situation. Sirs, you had a choice – and you chose to gamble with the futures of young girls, some of them in primary school. In so doing you ruined futures and undermined your country’s investment in education. The question you may ask is why us? Why now? I think there comes a time when rot can no longer be ignored. Perhaps that time is now. The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development spends lots of money supporting children whose fathers have simply moved on without so much as a backward glance.

The Ministry of Health does all it can to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, but your actions undermine such efforts. The Ministry of Defence Justice and Security does all it can to lock those of you whose sexual victims were under 16, but success is not always assured. You are not housed within any one political party, church or profession. Your actions constitute a national epidemic and only when the public unite against this behaviour can we hope to see change. You may ask why, since pregnancies do not happen in the class room, I care. I care because every child who drops out of school undermines my mandate. I care because I am a mother. I care because I have been entrusted with the responsibility of shaping young minds and I expect you all Sirs, as leaders in the private and public spheres, to act like leaders. I have cared for a very long time. I care because as, Nelson Mandela said, “There cannot be any keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children”.

It is my hope and prayer that your mother, father, pastor, friend, wife…will stop looking the other way and will confront you and demand that you earn the respect that has been heaped upon you by virtue of you being an adult man. Be a man; be responsible and accountable. Sirs, you will note that I have avoided any mention of the much reported alleged involvement of Assistant Minister Fidelis Molao in Cllr. Amon’s case. The Assistant Minister has repeatedly publicly stated that his phone was hacked and that the police are investigating the hacking. It seems prudent to await the outcome of the police investigations.

Unity Dow
Minister of Education and Skills Development