Fighting sex pests, Homa Bay children enrolled for martial arts training
Increased cases of defilement in Homa Bay are pushing parents to pull out all the stops to protect their children from harm.
Some parents have enrolled their children in martial arts training like karate and taekwondo as a way of enabling them to fight off sex offenders.
At La Salle School in Homa Bay town, 40 children have been enrolled in taekwondo classes. The children are aged between four and 10 years.
School director Antony Oloo said the sport was introduced in the school last year but is now gaining popularity.
Their initial intention was to enable learners to compete in championships against one another. But within weeks, more parents asked their children to join the taekwondo club at the school, not for sports but for self-defence.
"We introduced the game to engage in competition. We realised that taekwondo is a base for other games including football because it instills discipline among the participants," he said.
Homa Bay Taekwondo Association Chairman Japheth Ngolo who offers training to the children said most of his trainees, especially girls are attending lessons to acquire skills to defend themselves.
"Most of them are interested in acquiring skills for self-defence," he said.
Training sessions are usually on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays between 2pm and 3pm.
On Saturdays, Mr Ngolo usually hosts up to 100 children interested in martial arts.
The weekend trial is conducted between 2 pm and 4:30 pm.
Ms Judy Majiwa, a parent at La Salle said she believes her daughter will acquire skills to enable her fight off sexual offenders in the event of an attack.
She expressed worries about human rights violations, which are rampant in Homa Bay.
"I encourage other parents to let their children participate in the game. It will help them in case the children are kidnapped," Ms Majiwa said.
In Mbita’s Victoria School, a group of 40 children have enrolled into karate.
To make the matters worse, some of those entrusted with protecting the children are the ones abusing them.
The latest case is of a priest who is accused of defiling a 13-year-old girl during a prayer session at his home in Kopiyo village last Sunday. He’s in police custody.
Homa Bay is one of the leading counties with sexual offence cases in the region.
According to the 2022 Kenya Demographic Health Survey report, the county is ranked second in cases of physical violence at 54 per cent. It is ranked third nationally in sexual violence at 24 per cent.
According to experts in the gender sector, some of the cases are attributed to poverty and ignorance.
Another case was of a teacher at Nyajanja Mixed Secondary school, who is accused of defiling six students and making one of them pregnant.
Sadly, most of the cases do not make it to the courts. They are ‘mediated’ in sessions where perpetrators and victims negotiate and solve the cases at home, mainly by exchange of gifts.
This has left children in the county more vulnerable, with no one to defend them.
Mr Hesbon Ouma, in charge of the Homa Bay Karate Association said the martial art was initially thought to be violent and people shied away from it. Hoerver, parents later realised that besides keeping their children healthy, the sport makes them have skills to fight off criminals.
"Food that we eat today has a lot of chemicals that need to be controlled in the body. The only way to stay healthy is to engage in a sporting activity that makes them fit," Mr Ouma said.
The two sporting events have however not been given attention by the department of sports in Homa Bay County.
Mr Ngolo and Mr Ouma called on the county government to support their sporting activity to attract more players.
Mr Ngolo has represented Homa Bay in different competitions and won medals.
"We have an upcoming competition in Rwanda and hope the county governments will help us in taking care of the expenses," he said.
Mr Ouma asked for training materials such as uniforms.