The National Curriculum Framework Science of form I students in Mauritius includes a very unconventional exercise. One which has outraged both parents and teachers. The said exercise is about letter-writing. So far, so good. However, it is the topic of the letter-writing that has triggered the indignation of parents. The students are asked to write a letter to a victim of sexual abuse with the view to explaining the latter as to what should he have done that could have spared him from falling into such a situation.
The chapter on Sexual Abuse deals with this kind of exercise. Press articles relating to cases of sexual abuse on minors have been incorporated in the chapter. According to a teacher, the wordings are too blunt and harsh. Some cases deal with incest and sodomy. On reading such articles, the students began asking questions as to what sodomy is, for instance.
A teacher of a Star School has said that she has had to deal with furious parents regarding this issue. The parents do not wish for their young kids to read such articles. The teacher also said that she does not understand the rationale behind this exercise. Teachers find themselves in an embarrassing situation; they are told to follow the instructions while they feel that no proper consideration of the matter has been made prior to incorporating this in the school syllabus.
However, not all colleges are using this book. Colleges are free to choose which books the students are to have as study material. The book in question has been written by some teachers of the Mauritius Institute of Education. Yashwant Ramma is one of them. In his point of view, the students would be allowed to think of strategies to adopt to avoid being sexually abused or harassed. According to him, the students should be aware of what should be done given the abounding articles relating to this in newspapers. He is, however, conscious of the fact that certain aspects of the chapter could be shocking to students. Therefore, according to his logic, it is up to the teachers to come up with the proper terms to gear the discussion.
It is true that children have to be educated about such a hot topic. But, is exposing them to articles dealing with the matter going to do the trick? The extremely young kids who are victims of sexual abuse and incest do not have the choice most of the times. They do not have the means to avoid being molested. What is the point of making students write an article to victims as to how they could have avoided that?! Isn’t this going to further stigmatise the victims? Many more innovative ways could have been chosen to make students think of ways to counter this problem – but surely, not by writing letters to explain how victims could have avoided that kind of situation.