Mr Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to contribute to this very important Statement ably made by the Hon Member from the Central Region.
Mr Speaker, it is quite clear from the contributions in this House that the practice of defiling girls under the age of 16 is not limited to teachers alone. Even in the Central Region, it has been clearly demonstrated that it spreads wider than teachers.
Mr Speaker, albeit people who are not within the teaching profession or teachers, it is an act that we ought to bemoan and condemn in absolute terms the practice where males or people take advantage of children and defile them in the process, thus destroying their future.
Mr Speaker, I believe clearly that in stopping the practice, blame must be laid squarely at the doorstep of the Ministry of Education and particularly, the Ghana Education Service (GES).
I trained as a teacher before I became a lawyer, and one of the induction courses we are given as teachers, when we are about leaving the training college, is to be reminded that pupils and especially, girls who are under our care are in a position of trust with us.
That relationship is an unequal relationship. So, the teacher should not pry, whatever be the case, on girls who are in his or her class, whose charge have been given to the teacher to train.
Mr Speaker, so, when it happens in the classroom, it is the GES which should discipline the teacher, recall the teacher's certificates, bar the teacher just like it is done in legal practice from trading the profession because that is a betrayal of trust.
When Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) is written or about to be written every year, we hear reports that X number of girls wrote the examinations while being pregnant. We do not hear follow up reports of people who impregnated them.
We also do not get sanctions meted out to teachers as ably demonstrated by the Hon Colleague from the Central Region who have found themselves in that act.
Mr Speaker, many societies have dealt with this situation; what we ought to do as a country, which clearly should be within the Civic Education Department of the Non-Formal Education Unit, working in conjunction, probably with the office of the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, to train these people and to make it part of the curriculum in the schools.
Teach the girls and even the boys their fundamental human rights. Embolden them to know that they can say no in all situations and nothing can happen to them. That, if they are threatened, they have recourse to the counselling services established by the GES, and that they as pupils can follow up and ensure that action is taken against people who pry into them.
Mr Speaker, the girls themselves must be empowered and emboldened to stand up to the tyranny of teachers or any other person who would want to exploit them. That is one of the most important ways that we can embolden our girl-children as most of the parents are poor.
So, when their daughter is put in that situation, the compelling effects of
monetary incentives, sometimes, get them to drop the case because they are already poor. In Dagbani, they say that if you are already in tattered robes and you are challenged to a fight, you hurry onto the fighting grounds because your clothes are already in tatters.
Mr Speaker, so, if girls are impregnated and people dangle money before the parents, most often than not -- and that is what we see in courts -- the parents take the money, advise, compel and coerce the girl not to pursue the case. The parents even sanction the girl for reporting the case to the police in the first place.
Mr Speaker, it has been said time and again, that any girl below the age of sixteen has no capacity to give consent.
So, we cannot rely on the consent when the girl is less than 16 years. If the girl is more than 16 years, probably, she would be in the secondary school. There is that relationship of trust between the teacher in the secondary school or the tertiary institution and the students they are charged with to train. So, they ought not to take advantage of them.
As I have said, the counselling services of the Ghana Education Service must be seen to be up and doing. If all these bodies work together, we would ensure that the future of these girls can be guaranteed.