Very few people had heard Emmanuel Usabye until he fell into hot soup. Formerly the school director at Groupe Scolaire Nsinda, a high school in Rwamagana, the capital of Rwanda’s Eastern Province, he was suspended and then fired because of gross negligence. “What did he do”, you ask? Under his watch, 26 members of his student body were found pregnant.
Of course the entire community went up in arms. One case of teenage pregnancy is still worthy of school scandal. Just imagine the furor when it was discovered that 26 girls, many below 18, Rwanda’s age of consent, were carrying a child in their bellies. Everyone, from Francois Ndayambaje,the chairman of the parent’s committee to Odette Uwamariya, the Province’s governor, expressed their outrage. Blaming the school administration, the former told a daily newspaper that ““With such levels of teenage pregnancies, we are heading nowhere as a community. The administrators gave bad example to children”, while the latter said that she wanted to see that the “culprits are brought to book. It is disgusting to hear what happened to the girls”.
To understand this reaction one must understand that Rwanda is an extremely conservative and religious nation. Throw in the fact that evangelical Christianity, with its hush-hush and fire-and-brimstone attitude to sex outside marriage, is the most popular religious leaning in the country and you have the conditions that made Groupe Scolaire Nsinda affair possible.
As I previously wrote in my blog, sex education is severally lacking in the country. Parents don’t talk to their kids about it and neither do their teachers. Whatever they are learning is through their peers- a case of the blind leading the blind. Interestingly enough, on one side you have a society that treats sex like taboo while on the other, you have a State that is doing all it can to publicize safe sex, HIV prevention and family planning. The issue is that the government campaigns are geared towards adults, not teenagers who, despite their parents’ protestations, are still bumping uglies.
One of the tools being used to combat unsafe sex is the condom-dispensing machine. Found in university hallways, bars and nightclubs these chucky machines hand out three condoms for the affordable price of three hundred Rwandan Francs (about €0.5). It goes without saying that teenagers use these machines to buy condoms. Everyone knows they do and its all nudge-nudge-wink-wink. However, let anyone talk about actually putting these machines in their schools and there is open revolt.
“I don’t believe in condoms being distributed in secondary schools… It’s a no go zone. The children are, in the first place, not mature enough to know how to use condoms”, Innocent Nshimiyemungu, a deputy head teacher at Lycée de Ruhengeri APICUR told a reporter.
Edward Asiimwe, with two teenage daughters went even further. “To say that condoms be introduced to these young children means we have lost our sense of direction and morals. We should emphasize postponement of sexual activity by encouraging these young people to embrace abstinence”.
The message of abstinence is being preached but still teenagers are having sex. No matter what teachers, religious leaders and their parents tell them, they will continue to do so because, like us adults, they find it fun. Now if only they were given the tools to satisfy their curiosity and sexual instincts safely, the 26 girls in Rwamagana would’ve still been in school. Now they will probably drop out of school to take care of their infants. It’s a sad, sad business.