Gender Gender

Childminders: Curse or blessing?

Gender Focus with JUDITH KONAYUMA
THE coming of a child in any family is always a joy but for a couple that has to leave home every day to get to work, it can be a challenge.
In many instances, a childminder to keep an eye on the child is the only way out for a mother who has to leave home every day for work, business errands or school.
While it is hoped that the child or children are left in safe hands, it is not usually the case, as was witnessed recently, in the incident of a fire that broke out at a flat in Kabwata Estates in Lusaka.
There are many of such incidences where children who are thought to have been left in the care of a minder, are found in spine chilling experiences arising from circumstances that endanger their lives.
A couple is compelled to leave a child in the care of a nanny because the household financial demands dictate so.
And every working mother and father pray for the best for their child while they are away and whether that is the case or not, is only known by the one who remains with the child for the rest of the day.
There are childminders who are good and can create a strong bond with a child to the extent that the child will always feel safe when they are around.
Some childminders take advantage of the fact that the child does not talk and, so they cannot report the unpleasant circumstances they may be exposed to in the absence of their parents.
Fear is another card the minders flash before the children to silence them. They can threaten to ruthlessly deal with the child if it reports to its parents the goings on when the mother and father leave home.
What is more appalling is that most of the children who are left in the care of minders are up to about three years old, a stage when they have not yet been enrolled in nursery school. But even if they are schoolgoing, there comes a time when they have to spend time with the childminder, like during the school holidays or weekends.
In times when the extended family system is disintegrating, the services of a childminder come in handy.
These are people we bring into our homes without much knowledge about them or their behaviours and a parent would only hope they have landed themselves a dependable and responsible person they can entrust their children with until one discovers the incredible.
In one incident, a woman who hired a childminder later learnt that her helper brought a boyfriend into their house everyday as soon as the couple left for work.
And to keep the child away from their presence, she would lock her up in the bedroom, not caring about the safety of the child and her need to answer the call of nature or even feed her at the right time.
In some more bizarre cases, some childminders can be cruel to a child, maybe out of frustration and keep it at arm’s length or to make it clear that she does not want to be bothered.
The WhatsApp video of a Kenyan childminder who cruelly battered a toddler is still fresh in our minds and we all know what happened to her.
The mother of the child was left traumatised when she discovered how her child was mistreated after she installed security cameras which confirmed the childminder’s cruelty.
Cruelty in one way or another still happens to some children and it can go one because they are at a stage when they cannot report any mistreatment.
One pointer to a mistreated child who remains with a childminder is the child’s refusal to remain in her care when its parents leave home.
A child who feels safe in the care of a minder does not cry for its parents when they leave home. In fact, the child will even run to the childminder as a show of confidence in the helper.
The safety of a child who is left in the care of a minder is paramount to a couple and it is always important to ensure that a child is not mistreated.
For those who can afford, they can place secret security cameras if they suspect that a childminder mistreats their child, like in the case of the Kenyan woman. This provides the best proof of any mistreatment of the child.
It is also helpful to have at least a relative who can always remain with a child helper when the parents leave for work. Some families have grandmothers who need a shelter and these can be helpful when it comes to keeping children company in a home.
The safety of children, especially when they are still young, is a trying experience, until they are old enough to look after themselves.
For questions and contri¬butions, email jkonayuma@daily-com.zom

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