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No psychological screening for potential teachers

Tue, 20 October 2015 18:44
by Faith Haushona-Kavamba

The Ministry of Basic Education, Arts and Culture does not conduct psychological screenings on potential teachers to weed out unsuitable candidates.

This comes after two sisters were allegedly murdered by a teacher from the Augustineum High School after a relationship had gone sour. The 32-year-old teacher, Ananias Kamati, allegedly murdered Cecilia Kambuu Kuaseua (30) and her younger sister Jaqueline Kuaseua (18) after the younger one ended their tumultuous relationship.

It is alleged that a week before the murders took place, [Jaqueline] Kuaseua got a restraining order against Kamati.

On the fateful Friday, the teacher confiscated his girlfriend’s cell phone, who then called her sister to help her retrieve it. It was during that process that Kamati allegedly killed them.

Kamati is said to have a history of inappropriate conduct/relationships with learners, having previously been asked to leave another school.

The Deputy Director in the HIV/AIDS Management Unit (HAMU) at the Ministry of Education Julius Nghifikwa said although the ministry does not do psychological screenings for teachers at present, they were looking at campaigns and Life Skills’ education for learners, through which the ministry can create awareness amongst learners about the dangers of engaging in inappropriate relationships with educators. This would help them make informed decisions where sexuality is concerned. He added that teachers also need to be trained on a continuous basis to refrain from engaging in sexual relationships with their learners.

“Teachers should always serve in loco parentis (in the place of a parent)…The Ministry of Basic Education and teachers act as parents, and having a relationship with one’s learners disturbs this relationship,” Nghifikwa stressed, adding that teachers were there to help with the upbringing and motivation of their wards, and not engage in relationships with them.

He furthermore expressed his shock at the fact that the parents were aware of the relationship between the teacher and the learner, yet did nothing to end it.

“The parents were not supposed to allow this relationship to go on. We cannot do much if parents are not helping in enforcing the law,” he lamented.

The Deputy Director further said there are a lot of issues in communities which people are lax about, which could result in these inappropriate relationships.

The two main issues he highlighted were that parents must understand the importance of education, and know that there is a lot of peer pressure which arises with the need for learners to have the latest gadgets and nicest clothes.

“Societal rules are not strong, and cultural values are not protected. Our society is being attacked by many issues which parents cannot control, so parents need to be strong and school leaders need to make sure that their teaching staff is adhering to all the policies,” he advised.

Apart from serving a prison sentence if found guilty of statutory rape, teachers also face a suspension of 8 years from the teaching profession. However, Nghifikwa said perhaps other, more immediate punitive measures need to be introduced because teachers do not seem to care about those already in place.

While most developed countries can afford to, and do scan teachers before recruiting them, Namibia does not have the same luxury.

Nghifikwa explained that when they come across a qualified individual looking for a teaching post, they grab them because the supply of teachers in Namibia is low, while the demand is high. Psychological pretesting would put a strain on an already-strained system.

He said that he hoped that enforcing more time-sensitive punitive measures might help in deterring teachers from engaging in sexual relationships with learners. “It takes time for the government to react to certain issues, and in the meantime the perpetrator could continue,” he stated.

Although the government does not provide direct psychological counselling for teachers, Nghifikwa said they provided a medical aid scheme, which employees could use to seek psychological counselling.

Nonetheless, people are in denial about certain issues which they have, which means they do not seek and receive much of the help they desperately need.

In Kamati’s case, he posted on several status updates on Facebook that he was haunted by a ghost for several years, but there is no indication that he sought professional help.

“My recommendations on this matter are that the leadership, our Minister, must issue a directive reiterating on the issue of teachers having inappropriate relationships with learners. If an 8-year out-ofservice sentence will not deter them from engaging in these activities, then we should look at forfeiting the perpetrators’ qualifications. If we do not make our policies stronger, they will not work,” he noted.

Nghifikwa stressed that student bodies such as the Namibia National Students’ Organisation (NANSO) and other student organisations at high-school level also need to mobilize the student/learner community and fight for their own rights.

As of 1 December, HAMU will launch various campaigns and projects aimed at addressing these and other issues, targeting learners between the ages of 12-24 years.