Gender Focus with EMELDA MWITWA
SENIOR Chief Madzimawe of the Ngoni, a child rights activist, has in the recent past been making news for censuring parents and men for infringing on children’s rights.
Through his Madzimawe Foundation, the chief has been encouraging girl children to delay marriage and put education first.
Since the formation of the Foundation, the chief has been engaging parents and school-girls in a positive enculturation campaign which, if successful, may see his rural community discarding the age old tradition of girls growing up aspiring for marriage.
The chief wants girls in his area to aspire for a bright future through education.
It appears that Chief Madzimawe wants village girls to have big dreams and visualise themselves as professionals or entrepreneurs, and not merely as married women and mothers of many children.
In his campaign, the chief is on record of withdrawing young girls from their husbands’ homes and taking them back to school.
In some cases, he has censured conniving suitors for marrying schoolgirls and parents for consenting to the marriages. Where the victims are below the age of 15, the traditional ruler has been reporting the men involved to police for child defilement.
Last week Chief Madzimawe came in the limelight for punishing parents in his chiefdom for allowing six underage children to work as dancers at a bar. The bar owner reportedly recruited the children aged between 12 and 17 to dance and entertain patrons at his bar. The kids were made to work as late as 23:00 hours, yet they are school-children at Madzimawe Primary School doing grades five to seven.
When information reached the chief, he summoned the parents and censured them for allowing children to work at the bar. In their punishment, the parents were ordered to clean a clinic and school for five days. Obviously the chief’s sentence was not severe in nature, but a symbolic reprimand to remind parents of the responsibility they have over their children.
He was simply telling the parents that as legal custodians of minors, they should take interest in what the children are doing, where they go and at what time they go out.
When news of the parents being punished by Chief Madzimawe made headlines, a friend remarked that the chief had done well because it was wrong for parents to send their children to work in a bar.
‘How can a parent send his or her children to work in a bar, and stay as late as 23:00 hours for that matter?’ A colleague said.
Another remarked that the children may not have had express permission from their parents to work in a bar. Perhaps the youngsters were rebellious children who disobeyed their parents to work and stay out late.
This particular friend argued that we are living in an era where juvenile delinquency has reached alarming levels, no wonder why children do whatever they want with or without the permission of their parents.
To the contrary, I was on Chief Madzimawe’s side and in full support of him for reprimanding the five parents for allowing the children – two boys and four girls – to work in a bar.
First of all, children as young as 12 should have no business in the world of work.
And if children happen to be engaged in paid labour with the full knowledge of their parents, the parents are as good as having consented to the contract of employment.
Secondly, children should not be admitted to a club where beer is being sold.
Thirdly, children as young as 12 and 17 should not go out in the night without parents knowing their whereabouts. Under normal circumstances, you would expect parents to impose a night curfew on adolescent children. Obviously this is the rule in every home where there is sanity. So if a 12-year-old is going to stay out dancing in a nightclub, he or she must be doing it with express permission of the parents.
Therefore it is not wrong to say that the parents in question were sending their children to go and dance in the bar.
My point is that parents should get involved in what their children are doing, who they hang around with, and where they hang out.
There is nothing wrong with getting ‘too involved’ in the lives of immature children because at a tender age, a child needs parental guidance to make the right decisions in life.
Knowing your children’s friends, where they are going for leisure, what they are doing and setting a curfew for them, are some of the ways of protecting them from keeping wrong company and getting hooked to social vices that may harm their lives.
Let me also state that receiving financial gifts from young children is as good as encouraging them to work or to engage in illicit activities for money.
Likewise, allowing children who should have no business in the world of work to buy food at home or bring money home, is being complicit in their wrongdoing. In a way, it amounts to exploitation of children for material gain.
A parent worth his or her salt should not put the life of a child at risk to gain a few Kwachas or to be able to put food on the table. When the going gets tough, some parents and guardians would rather use young children to work or solicit alms on the streets than taking up their responsibility of winning bread for the family.
Other parents go as far as encouraging children to engage in sex work to earn bread for the family.
Receiving gifts from a daughter who goes to work in the night, to an unknown place, while dressed skimpily, is as good as encouraging one’s child to engage in prostitution.
The point is, parents should never delegate the responsibility of earning bread for the family to immature children.
We need to allow children to be children so that they can concentrate on their education. In other words, parents should always take an interest in what their children are doing. I think this is what Chief Madzimawe was trying to tell us when he punished the five parents whose children were working as dancers in a bar.
To my article titled “Debar randy teachers’, a reader writes:
I would like to add my views to your article of July 20, 2017 headlined ‘Debar randy teachers’. The teacher and pupil sexual relationships need to be handled from a spiritual point of view as well because they involve ungodly acts. When teachers date pupils, it creates a soul-tie between them, and this may affect their lives and destiny. The relationship also brings shame and reproach to the pupils, although it may not manifest immediately, but in the near future. Sexual immorality also brings about the spirit of lust, incurable diseases and demonic diseases.
The Ministry of National Guidance and Religious Affairs needs to help us to address this problem of teachers sexually abusing pupils through outreach programmes in schools. Pupils need to learn to value themselves so that they don’t fall prey to abusive teachers. The counselling should be extended to both pupils and teachers, at least once every quarter.
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