In a well attended Parents Teachers Association (PTA) meeting in my children’s school in Calabar on Friday, 5th March, 2021, parents were prepared for an election to usher in a new executive of the association. Shortly after the opening remarks by the outgoing PTA Chairman, we were notified of a brief message from the Special Adviser to the Governor on Education, Mr. Castro Ezama. We all listened with keen attention to the message from government quarters.
As one among the few who knows the SA personally, I watched eagerly to weigh reactions to his message. After the message, there was a spontaneous rapturous applaud from everyone in that meeting including yours sincerely. The message was simply a wake up call on parents to rise to the responsibility of giving more attention to their children. He insisted that the role of parents in the 21st century goes far beyond just providing food, paying school fees and buying books for their wards, that the greater task of personal, spiritual and social hygiene should be prioritized.
He added that parents should monitor or supervise what their children watch, especially with the new challenge of social media where pornography has magnified sexual curiosity in the society with children as cheap preys. It was at this point that he averred that from his interaction with students in his routine visits to schools, he has discovered that ‘about 50 to 60% of female students may have lost their virginity’. He warned that if the issue remains unchecked, the rate of early pregnancies and childbirth may culminate in a new social problem in the state.
In the same vein, he pointed out that the percentage of male children who are involved in cultism and drug addiction is troubling. He drew our attention to some students that he recently handed over to security agencies after confessing their involvement in cult related activities.
Expectedly, both parents and teachers alike were full of thanks to the SA Education for the visit and the timely message. They pleaded with him to make such visits a periodic trend. We then went back to our PTA election.
I’ve equally listened to a few interviews granted the SA in different radio stations in Calabar as well as read media reportage of his routine visits to both public and private schools. In almost all of these outings the message has been the same.
Recently, I have read trending news credited to the SA Education with bold emphasis on the percentage of female students who have lost their virginity. While I agree totally with the purveyors of this trending topic, especially with regards to the source of the staggering statistics and of course his choice of the gender, I’ll plead with us to look beyond the statistics and ponder on the message too. I’m deeply concerned that only few commentators are looking beyond the binoculars of gender chauvinism. I also believe the media has blown the story out of proportion spotlighting largely an isolated issue ostensibly to sensationalize an important and a well thought out and timely message. It is now very obvious that this discourse has suffered from selective analysis. Why us it that people are not talking about the issue of cultism that the male gender was tagged?
As a concerned parent with two boys and two girls, I want to publicly appreciate the SA for amplifying the alarm on an issue that is going in as a silent war in every home. I also call on the general public to take this message beyond the gender narrative and always attempt to balance their perception of any public discourse.
Let me make it clear here also that I am not holding brief for the SA Education. I am like every curious commentator also concerned about the validity of his statistics. However, in a world that is fast losing the moral fabrics holding the society, the changing dynamics of child rearing should always be emphasized. Also, in a government that we believe things are not working well, we should not vilify the few government officials willing to contribute to the good of the society. I will only urge the SA to widen the frontiers of his research because he is a quotable source.
Anthony Bissong Attah