It’s hard protecting students from becoming ‘shalobalo’

It’s hard protecting students from becoming ‘shalobalo’

I have attended several such occasions at St. Anthony’s Secondary School in Dar es Salaam and I cannot help saying I loved it a lot. That’s when the school children – for those are still children any way – shed tears of emotion. It is not surprising that the students do so.

Moreover, after being together and shared so much – the sad incidents and the happy ones, made so many friends, it hurts a lot to part company by force of time that they have no power to change.  Some cry tears of joy because of their excellent performance that is exposed before the gathering. Indeed it is always for them a defining moment for it is a time to know and acknowledge that their presence at the school has rewarded them well or not.  

It is a time to know that every one of them must go their own way in accordance to academic seeds they planted, watered and cared for accordingly.  However, I did not have the luck of attending the school’s last Form VI graduation ceremony a couple of week ago. The occasion that took place on  February 23, this year was also an eventful time.

The news tickled curiosity in me and I found myself shortly later travelling to the school. The school headmaster, Bro. Ismail Edward, said the school is co-education institution. Of all its 1,739 students, only 754 by February, 2012, were girls. The national efforts to give girls equal educational chance with boys may not have reached the fifty-fifty in many other secondary schools in the country. However, the ration at St. Anthony’s was encouraging.  Having an equal number of girls to that of boys at school is one thing. Providing for them with a friendly environment for studies is yet another.  

The biggest hassle for girls going to school in urban centres, Reporter at Large learnt, is transport. The problem exposes them to sex predators who burden them with a pregnancy, the most common cause of girls dropping out of school. To keep the pregnancy monster at bay, St. Anthony’s Secondary School had built a hostel for the female students. Previously, pregnancy cases at the school were not that many. Still, the situation was rather alarming.

So I asked Bro. Edward how the hostel had improved the state of affairs. It is impressive, he said. But Reporter at Large learnt that all were not roses with the hostel. If the girls had escaped sex predators on their way from home to school and back,  a new form of predators had followed them in their supposedly haven.

“There are thieves from the neighbourhood,” Bro. Edward said. He, however, added quickly that the police were dealing accordingly with the ruffians and peace and security at the hostel was satisfactory. Still, it did not mean life at the hostel was as the school administration would want it to be. For the girls to be safe from any social harm, they had to abide by the rules of the hostel of going out only after permission.

“However, because some schoolgirls still reside out of campus, it is easy for those at the hostel to mix with them and walk out easily,” the headmaster explained. Building a hostel for girls therefore proves that more still have to be done to give them more security to catch up with their brothers. Nevertheless, it would be a deceptive picture to think that male students are safe in their residence outside the school campus. Reporter at Large learnt from the headmaster that out there the boys are free to watch what they will on TV, in social halls or on the streets.

“Boys particularly are tempted to adopt weird ways of dressing from the West like that of ‘mlegezo’” he said. Mlegezo (loosely) dressing is the mode of wearing the trousers at the lower end of buttocks. And the boys think it is trendy. Where in the West boys in the country saw it, is anyone’s guess. The common place the weird dressing style the youth must have seen it is on TV. Fighting these new styles of dress will be difficult for the boys and girls for their own, find the strange modes of dress highly fashionable. But the methods of dress can only stay if parents give them a nod. Still it is a hard fight.

When I saw my son wearing his trousers in the ‘mlegezo’ fashion, I barked at him with a strong disapproval. The boy just smiled back. “Father, at times it is fun to be a ‘shalobalo’.” I did not know what the word meant. “Shalobalo! What is that?” I asked him. “A dandy.” “But dressed like that makes you look like a rogue,” I told him. “No, daddy, you see it that way because you are behind times. The style makes one dandy.” I understand the concern of St. Anthony Secondary School leadership. If we give our children all the freedom they need, anything will be dandy.    

Joellawi@excite.com 0755-666-017 O785-673-979

Author: Lawi Joel

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