Explosion in unprotected sex cases at Chirumanzu school

The National Aids Council has intensified its awareness campaigns in a remote location in the Chirumanzu district following an increase in unprotected sex among adolescents.

At one school alone, 16 young girls have had to drop out this year after falling pregnant or eloping to their artisanal mining boyfriends. The girls are aged from 14 years.

Said Nac’s Chirumanzu district Aids co-ordinator Gwatiriga Masara: “School authorities at Orton’s Drift have requested we engage the small scale miners in the locality as a way to save their pupils from unwanted pregnancies.

“The high number of pregnancies has also affected the community who have come to us for assistance in reducing this menace.

“We have also engaged the pupils on the dangers of unprotected sex and its side-effects,” he said.

Orton’s Drift is a Chirumanzu District Council school, located on a farm formerly part of what was once one of the biggest cagtle ranching farms in the country, known as  Central Estates. It has an enrolment of 305 pupils, of which 107 are girls

According to Masara, the problems for the school stem from nearby gold mines where hundreds of young men make a living.

“There are four major gold mines in the area; Choppies, Lalapanzi, Seesaw and Downlands.

“The gold mill is located next to the school, so there is a lot of activity going on not only in the community but right at the school’s doorstep as gold ore is brought in for milling.”

He said the lure of the greenback had proved too hard to resist for young girls in the community, who fall prey to the gold panners flashing the US dollars.

“We have taken our education drive to the gold panners themselves, where we have adopted a three-pronged approach: condom use, the correct use of the condom, and the consistent use of the condom.

“The incorrect use of the condom is what has resulted in the unwanted early pregnancies,” he said.

The headmaster of Orton’s Drift school, who requested not to be named as he is not authorised to talk to the press, also chirped in with his concerns.

“As a matter of urgency we need a fence around the school to at least keep the gold panners out,” he said.

“As of now they criss-cross through the school grounds going to their mill. They even have the audacity to say to our pupils that they might not be educated but what they have is money.

“This sadly sends the wrong message to our pupils who end up not seeing the importance of education,” he said.

He confessed they even suspected that three or four girls currently writing their “O” Level examinations might be pregnant.

Not only are young girls in the community exposed to the marauding young miners, but commercial sex workers who descend to the area in their dozens over weekends.

What normally looks like a decrepit shopping centre with three or four tottering shops and a bar turns into a hive of activity over weekends as hundreds of revellers descend on the place.

This is just but one hot spot in the province where there is  prevalence of sexually transmitted infections, the other two being Mvuma and Chaka.

Masara said NAC had set up an HIV-testing centre at Orton’s Drift school for the benefit of the communty at large. They also try to reach out to men to come for testing.

“The numbers of men coming for testing are not as high as those for women, but we are making inroads,” he said.

The centre also offers cervical cancer testing for women.

“But as Nac we also have to do outreach programmes because the distances some people have to cover to access our services in some cases is too long,” Masara said.

“So in a quarter we plan to at least visit outlying areas four times to spread the message.”




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