Tag Archives: girl child empowerment

Bring back the #Confidence4 girls back to the University of Zimbabwe

23 Apr


Social media was abuzz all of last week after a video emerged showing a group of University of Zimbabwe (UZ) female students beating and scolding #Mr Confidence Thomas a UZ undergraduate student who was reported to have impregnated two of them while also dating the other two. The video and images of the fracas on campus were shared extensively across social networks. Memes and jokes were made from the whole saga. However, no one expected the rather unfortunate, rash and arbitrary decision from the University of Zimbabwe authorities. News is that the four young women have been suspended from the UZ for two years. This is an unacceptable and chauvinistic behavior from the University of Zimbabwe and the decision must be rescinded with immediate effect.

Due process questions

The first question that I would like to ask is whether the four young women were accorded due process in the determination of this case. The charge would be clear I guess – probably it read as follows: “disturbing the peace at the Campus ; violent behavior; assault on a fellow student OR something like – complicit in bringing the name of the University into disrepute”. I am just making up these charges because I do not have information on the exact charges that were brought against the four young women. Be as it may, I argue that whatever charge/s would be preferred against them it should not and cannot amount to the ludicrous two-year ban from their studies.

Old men wielding power against defenseless young people

The young ladies most likely faced a whole machinery of the University of Zimbabwe Disciplinary body presided over by some old men who wield so much power the girls would have trembled and stammered just at the sight of such people. The question that begs answers is whether these young female students were accorded their right to legal representation when they appeared before the disciplinary committee that presided over the matter. If they did not, then the decision cannot be valid. On those grounds alone it should be rescinded barring that it should not even have been passed in the first instance.

The need to resort to alternative dispute resolution mechanisms

The next question that any sane person would ask is whether the University’s Disciplinary body ever considered alternative methods of censure for the supposed trespasses by the four female students. The girls could have been made to pay a fine; they could have been asked to do community service either on the campus or after their case was reported with the police they could have been given a warning as first offenders. Deliberations could have been held with professional counselors to deal with the trauma that each and everyone one of the five parties involved have gone through because of the relationship that they were all in at the hands of this Confidence Thomas boy. There is just too many alternative dispute resolution mechanisms under the sun to consider. The University of Zimbabwe should have considered other methods of censure for the four female students because the two-year suspension just does not make any sense at all.

The fallacy of Heroism for the boy child who has sex with all the girls

In Zimbabwe there are always cases of young girls who get impregnated by their “young boyfriends”, resultantly sent away from school and endure the agony of caring for the child alone while the father of the child remains in school. The case of the University of Zimbabwe reeks of the same mentality by a patriarchal society that prefers to punish the girl child for having sexual relations with their male partners before marriage. This young man called Confidence Thomas dated all four young women at the same time without them knowing. He has become a sensational hero of sorts on social media for his exploits. When the young ladies found out about his wayward ways they confronted him and a brawl ensued. No one is talking about Confidence Thomas’ philandering behavior. If he had been #Confident and man enough he would have informed all four of his decision that he wanted to be in a “polygamous” relationship of sorts with all the four girls. He chose not to do so. In my view Confidence Thomas is as responsible for this mess as the rest of the girls.

Reversing and going against the tide of girl child empowerment

Word has it that Confidence Thomas reported the case to the police who arrested the young ladies on 20 April and they spent the night in detention at Avondale police station?. This is all within his rights and he was right in doing that. If the girls were charged by the police and dealt with by the courts, would that not have been enough punishment for the girls?  For the University of Zimbabwe to then send the four female students home without considering Confidence Thomas’ contribution to the whole saga is preposterous and should be condemned with all the contempt it deserves. The world over, everyone is talking about protecting girls and young women from prejudice and ensuring that they are brought to par with their male counterparts. Such kinds of administrative actions as the decision passed by the University of Zimbabwe goes against the spirit of the SDGs and other global initiatives to support the girl child. What will the University of Zimbabwe achieve by barring the four young women from the institution for two years? The girls must just be brought back to school.

The hidden political hand – the fear of the youth

The decision passed against the four female students was rash, arbitrary and harsh. Rather than being just a disciplinary decision, the decision reeks of politics. The University of Zimbabwe is a political hotbed and authorities in and outside always struggle to control students leading national discourses or protests. Could the situation of the four young women and this Confidence Thomas have provided an opportunity for the University to show power and flex some muscles for any would be protesters or “trouble maker” at the University of Zimbabwe? I say yes. Zimbabwe continues to have this or that strike and elections will be held soon. There isn’t a greater need and time to want to control students and showing them the mighty hand of force than now.

Double standards and inconsistency by the University of Zimbabwe

This same University had problems dealing with Grace Mugabe’s fake PHD degree and it took ages to respond to calls for redress by the public and even the courts of law. However, all of a sudden they have woken up, have the nerve and all the time in the world to descend on four distraught young women and a young man who were involved in a matter that could have been handled differently. This situation could leave them prejudiced of their education and have their dreams deferred by another two years but who cares to evaluate all that.

Zimbabwe is a broken society in need of healing – a call to civil society

The country is a broken society. After years of misrule by Robert Mugabe a lot of the social fabric was and has been damaged. How Zimbabweans treat each other and deal with social problems is reflective of a broken people who have lost touch on how to be compassionate, reasonable and adapt to a changing world where the past can no longer deal with the present. When calls for national healing are made, these are some of the issues that need to be discussed. Questions touching on: How as a nation we handle young women and men’s sexual relationships, how our society deals with the abuse of social media by young people etc should be key. National healing cannot just be about dealing with past human rights violations but it should also be about mending the broken software that is our social fabric. This then calls on civil society organizations working on women’s rights issues, legal rights organizations and even men’s organizations as well as educators in Universities to come together to start discussions on the Zimbabwe we want to see going forward.

Recommending a more accommodating approach to problem solving

The University of Zimbabwe needs to consider with immediate effect reinstating the four young female students back into the University. My call is not to condone violence and untoward behavior by allowing students to take the law into their own hands. However, the University of Zimbabwe must ensure that the atmosphere at the campus is that of a zen place conducive for learning, sharing ideas and innovating. They must with immediate effect start implementing programs that build characters of young men and women who can be Zimbabwe’s future leaders as well as beyond our borders. Sexual health programs administered by the University to help young men like Confidence Thomas understand the dangers posed by STIs and HIV/AIDS will be essential. The Government of Zimbabwe is grappling with the HIV/AIDS public health challenge. Is this not an opportunity for the University of Zimbabwe and other institutions of higher learning to institute programs that impart information on the dangers of having unprotected sex and even having children too early in life. The University of Zimbabwe cannot be like a prison where the administration is just there to command and commandeer students – it is a place of learning – if students were experts at everything they would not need to be there. One might argue that the University is not a Sunday School, Scripture Union or Social Club but the argument remains that for the University to produce capable, quality alumni they must invest in the social good and well being of its students. That will have to start with Confidence Thomas and the four young women who were his “girlfriends”. The #Confidence4 need to be back in class!

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