Idleness will lead to juvenile delinquency

Idleness will lead to juvenile delinquency

“This morning, Thursday March 5, The National Institute for communicable Diseases confirmed that a suspected case of Covid-19 has tested positive.”
“The patient is a 38-year-old male who travelled to Italy with his wife”.
It was a series of tweets from the account of Dr Zweli Mkhize the Minister of Health in neighbouring South Africa and the ripple effects would be felt throughout this good country of ours both in industries and personal lives alike. With the arrival of Covid-19 in South Africa it was only a matter of time before it made its way to Lesotho.

That was in part due to our oddly porous borders but as soon as South Africa made the announcement and the subsequent lockdowns Lesotho had to follow suit. The lockdown brought with it the closing down of schools and many a teenager was left with nothing to do to pass the days.
All over the country private schools came up with ingenious ways to continue educating their students, zoom classes were organised and for those who could afford it private tutors offered lessons over digital platforms and thus those students continued to learn albeit in a new and challenging way.

I say those students because this was not the case for all students. Students that went to public schools were unfortunately not afforded the same privileges, there were no zoom classes, and after all how could there be when the average public school cannot afford laptops for its staff let alone students who have access to both a laptop and home internet?

The option to get private tutoring is also closed to students from the lower end of the economic spectrum as once again private tutors need money, classes are online necessitating the need for Wi-Fi and I do not even need to once again stress the laptop issues so while students whose parents can afford a certain lifestyle many who are not lucky enough are falling through the cracks and as is the nature of such things some might not make it back.

The worrisome thing about this lack of schooling is not only that these children are not getting the education they should be getting, although that is a worrying issue in its own right, it is also that they spend their days with nothing to occupy their minds and with parents having gone to work they have little to no adult supervision and as the old adage says the devil is indeed finding work for their idle hands.

There was a good period in November to December of 2020 if I properly recall when the Naleli-Mabote area was plagued by a series of muggings by teenage boys who could not have been more than 16. Stories emerged that these boys were part of newly formed rival gangs and citizens were left shocked because Lesotho has never had much of a gang culture.

What we ventured to really think about the matter was not really shocking. It was merely the normal progression of what happens when teenage boys are left unsupervised and with nothing to occupy their minds for days on end. How many of these newly initiated gangsters will actually go back to school once they open and how many would be so immersed in their newly found criminality remains to be seen but one thing for sure is that for some the trajectory of their lives has changed forever.

The effects of having nothing to do will not only be seen in boy children, while teenage girls have less propensity for crime all teenagers with time on their hands and zero resources will turn to the only form of entertainment to fight boredom and raging hormones – sex. And since teenagers are none too wise, unprotected sex. By the time the school year resumes a good number of female students will not be able to go back to school as they have to stay at home and raise their babies. Many of them will likely never go back to gaining a formal education leading to more poverty and the very same lack of opportunities that got them into this mess for their children.

It is all very well to pontificate about how these children should exercise restraint and better judgement but children are not known for their good judgement, which is exactly why they are always in need of supervision or at the very least good activities to keep their mind occupied. It is sadly not only a problem that will be felt by themselves and their families, a higher crime rate and higher instances of teenage pregnancy are societal problems that will be felt by all of us for years after the pandemic ends and that is why it is in everyone’s best interests that a plan also be made for students in the public school system.

We would do well to remember that higher muggings means everyone is now at a higher chance of getting mugged, and whatever forms of crime that petty criminals graduate to and children whose teenage parents cannot afford them will sooner or later fall on the taxpayer’s pocket so it is better to avoid that eventuality than to deal with its after effects.

Whether it be corporates equipping public schools with the necessary resources to commence online learning or even private citizens helping those students that are in their vicinity with books and other resources to occupy their mind, every little bit helps and we need a collective effort to keep these children in school.
A butterfly flaps its wings in Peking and in Central Park you get rain instead of Sunshine- Edward Lorenz 1972.

And so it was, a person visiting a wet market in the Wuhan Province of China might very well result in teenage societal problems in Lesotho. That is the reality of the butterfly effect this time around.

Thakane Rethabile Shale

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