What you need to know:
- I use every opportunity to remind my children to be conscious of their surroundings, and rather than be accommodating and “nice” to strangers.
- Nowadays, we’re even wary of our neighbours and would rather that our children did not set foot in their compounds.
The other day, my 11-year-old son decided to take a walk around the neighbourhood, or, to be more specific, a few houses away because there is a certain area he knows he’s not supposed to go beyond.
Before he got there, he saw a yellow van approaching; one that looked similar to a school van. A few metres away, the van stopped in the middle of the road, and my son stopped too, to see which child would alight.
But no one did, yet the van remained put. A bit scared now, (he’s heard in the news stories of children that have gone missing from their homes), he began to walk back home as fast as his legs could carry him, periodically looking over his shoulders. He told me that eventually, the van reversed and went back the way it had come.
It might have been someone who had lost his way, but with the escalating cases of child kidnappings, many of which have ended tragically with the child being found dead, one cannot be too careful. At the risk of behaving like an alarmist, I use every opportunity to remind my children to be conscious of their surroundings, and rather than be accommodating and “nice” to strangers that try to strike a conversation with them, to ignore them, and if need be, walk, or even run, away with a scream thrown into the performance.
Danger in our homes
The fact is that society is no longer what it used to be. Once upon a time, it was safe for children to stray far away from their homes to play and explore, to be children. They would be away for hours yet their parents had no cause for worry because they knew that wherever they were, they were safe and sound — that society, unlike this one, did not eat its children. Then, children were not preyed upon by the very adults that were expected to take care of them.
Today, even if you live in a home surrounded by a high stone wall and an even higher gate that is firmly locked day and night, you worry if you don’t hear your child’s voice or if you don’t see him or her for even a few minutes. You cannot even afford to send them to the shop like our parents did in case someone grabs them on the way there.
Nowadays, we’re even wary of our neighbours and would rather that our children did not set foot in their compounds, just in case they’re the big, bad wolf we’re trying to protect them from. This is tragic because the person next door is the one we expect to come to our aid in case of an emergency; their home our nearest refuge just in case we are in danger in our homes.
But while we try to protect our children from strangers with bad intentions, a variety of studies and statistics, for instance, indicate that children are more likely to be sexually abused by people known to them — older relatives, friends, members of our community. I believe it was Nelson Mandela who said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children.”
Were this society to be subjected to a test to judge how well it treats its children, the score would be dismal.
The writer is editor, Society & Magazines, Daily Nation; [email protected] ke.nationmedia.com