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Mixed feelings over driving learners

by Staff reporter
28 Oct 2023 at 07:50hrs | Views
Two weeks ago, a tragic incident shook Harare when Ashley Musendekwa, an Upper Sixth student and deputy head boy of St George's College, lost his life in a devastating car accident on Harare Drive in Marlborough. The accident involved a head-on collision between Musendekwa's vehicle and a heavy truck.

There have been speculations that Musendekwa may have been racing with fellow schoolmates at the time of the accident while he was on his way to collect his siblings from their respective schools. However, his family strongly denies these allegations.

The tragic incident has ignited a nationwide debate, especially on social media, regarding whether it is appropriate to allow children to drive themselves to school. This conversation comes amid a growing trend of what some have termed the "school-run," where working parents entrust their children with cars to make the daily commute to school.

While the practice of allowing schoolchildren to drive themselves to school is prevalent among the affluent elite, the consequences of such a choice have, at times, proven to be catastrophic. The tragic accident involving Musendekwa has raised questions about the wisdom of this practice.

The uncle of the late teenager, Tungamirai Owen, expressed that Musendekwa was a responsible youth leader who could be entrusted with responsibilities. He refuted claims of his involvement in illegal racing, emphasizing that Ashley was a responsible individual, and the family had felt comfortable giving him a car to drive to school.

Owen also described Ashley as an ambitious and intelligent young man with significant dreams for his future. Ashley's mother attributes her son's death to fate, asserting that her "very responsible" son had foreseen his own death.

While some parents view the practice of allowing children to drive to school as a matter of personal choice based on individual circumstances, others express strong reservations, with many blaming elite parents for overindulging their children.

Critics argue that this phenomenon of allowing children to drive to school is a recent development, and that it is reflective of a culture of extravagance and showing off among the wealthy.

In response to the incident, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education's communications and advocacy director, Taungana Ndoro, explained that there is a need for relevant ministries and stakeholders to establish a policy regulating the driving of schoolchildren to school. He emphasized that while the ministry can provide discipline within and around school premises, the issuance of a driver's license falls under the jurisdiction of another ministry.

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi highlighted the importance of awareness campaigns in schools and partnerships with organizations like the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe to promote safe driving among pupils. He emphasized that parents play a crucial role in instilling values of safe driving in their children.

Nyathi also pointed out that some accidents involving school-age children are the result of peer pressure, and he urged young individuals to resist such pressure and prioritize their future. Additionally, Nyathi called for parents to exercise discretion and wait until their children are mature enough before giving them cars.

Despite these efforts and discussions, the tragic accident and the subsequent debate surrounding the practice of letting children drive to school have raised important questions and challenges for schools, parents, and authorities alike. Efforts to understand how schools, like St George's College, have provided support and counseling to students affected by this tragedy remain unanswered.

Source - newsday