Child abductions in Kenya are rising. Here’s a safety toolkit for your child

Make sure your son or daughter knows your full names and the names of your spouse.

Make sure your son or daughter knows your full names and the names of your spouse.

What you need to know:

  • Teach your child to recite your phone number together with that of your spouse.
  • Equip your child with some basic knowledge of how to assess and detect danger, and how they can maneuver out of it.
  •  Caution your young one against wandering off to isolated places or speaking to strangers.

In May 2021, an 8-year-old girl who had been missing was found dead. The girl, identified as Shantel, had gone missing while playing in their Kitengela neighbourhood. Her parents filed a report with the police in Kitengela. Hours later, they received strange phone calls from people who demanded Sh. 300,000 before they could release the girl.

“I thought she was just within the compound playing with other children but I was shocked when she did not return to the house in the evening,” Shantel's mom, Christine Ngima said. A few days later, Shantel’s body was discovered near Orata Bridge in Kitengela. Investigations into Shantel’s kidnapping identified Mutindi Nthuku as her abductor. According to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, Mutindi had approached Shantel while she was playing with other children. He reportedly inquired if the girl knew if there were any vacant houses in the area. After a brief exchange, he offered to give the girl a motorcycle ride and used the ride as a means to abduct her.

Barely two months later, 20-year-old Masten Milimu Wanjala was arrested in Shauri Moyo, Nairobi, over the disappearance of two children. Upon his arrest, Wanjala confessed to kidnapping and killing the two missing children in cold blood. He went on to give a chilling account of how he had abducted and murdered at least thirteen children over a five-year period and disposed of their bodies in Kabete area, Kiambu. Wanjala was barely 16 years old when he executed his first victim five years ago. Purity Maweu, a 12-year-old girl was the first to fall prey to the killer. The young girl was kidnapped from Kiima Kimwe in Machakos.

These two incidents are just but a few of the many cases of child abductions being reported in the country. The cases have surged alarmingly, in July 2021, a special squad within the police service was formed to investigate and curb them.

Beyond police investigations, parents can teach their children basic safety measures to heighten their self-awareness and boost their ability to stay safe. “It is essential that you begin teaching your child safety measures from the age of four,” says child therapist Gloria Wandeto. “Teach your child to say their name, your name, their age, their school, and their estate from as early as possible,” says Gloria. 

When going to and from school, your child should learn to always stick with a group. This will prevent her from being easily approached by an adult. “Your child should know that adults don’t seek help from kids, they seek help from fellow adults. As such, the old age wisdom of ‘Don’t talk to strangers!’ should be told to kids every so often,” says Gloria. She adds that your child should make it a habit to tell you if a disturbing incident happened or if they thought such an incident was about to happen. “Always make sure you seriously pay attention, encourage and work on such reports,” she says. If your child is older and remains at home alone, teach them to never tell callers that you are not at home, but rather say you can’t answer, or resist picking calls in your absence. They should also never open doors or gates to other people unless you say so. In addition, show her schools, churches, and homes of safe neighbors. Make sure your child knows these ‘safe places' that they should go to if they need help.

Additional tips for your child

Phone contacts and addresses: Teach your child to recite your phone number as well as that of your spouse. If they have a phone at home, teach them how to use it, how to make calls, and save your number on their speed dial. Show them how to reach you, a child-helpline, or a trusted neighbor.

Names: Make sure your son or daughter knows your full names and the names of your spouse. Ensure that he or she can pronounce them correctly. It is also wise that they know the name of a trusted neighbor and their contacts. Be careful to see that they know where you live, the name of the estate or residential area, and the house number. It is essential that you repeat often because children easily forget.

Encountering danger: Equip your child with some basic knowledge of how to assess and detect danger, and how they can maneuver out of it. In a similar vein, teach them some form of resistance and self-defense. Let them know that they can and should be assertive when confronted with danger. You could encourage them to scream courageously or kick and bite where necessary. For instance, they can scream and shout: ‘This man is not my father!’ or ‘This man wants to steal me!’ Teach him or her how to garner the courage to resist peer pressure and, or the urge to participate in unsupervised activities or excursions as these may leave them prone to danger.

Permission: Strictly ensure that your child learns to report before going anywhere, whether alone or in the company of another person. They should not accept things without checking with you, even if it’s from someone they seem to know. “Let them know that it’s alright to say no and that there will be people to help them if need be,” advises Gloria. “Saying no should include instances where they feel uncomfortable or when someone appears to touch them inappropriately.”

Isolation: Caution your young one against wandering off to isolated places or speaking to strangers. Let him or her know that they are safer in the company of supervising adults or other children.


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