“An eight-year-old girl was kidnapped in Lanet, Nakuru, right outside her home only moments after alighting from her school bus. Later, the kidnappers called her parents and demanded Ksh300,000 as ransom.
The parents raised Ksh52,000 and after sending the money, the criminals were tracked by the police and arrested. The boy too was rescued.” (Daily Nation, 13/06/2018)
It’s probably a sight you’ve grown accustomed to; that of yellow school buses criss-crossing narrow estate streets in the wee hours of the morning as you head out for your daily hustle. Or that of children huddled together in hoodies and bright school uniform, sometimes in the company of a guardian, waiting for their ride to school. Or, in the evening, the little ones walking home talking in excited tones about the day that was, who lost their pencil, who wouldn’t share their break with them, who forgot their school diary in their desks and so on. How safe are our young ones though?
In recent weeks, crime targeting our young ones has been on the rise across the country. Besides the busting of a child abduction ring in Nakuru, authorities in Embu also voiced concern over the worrying trend as 80 child defilement and abuse cases were reported in the area in four months alone.
Elsewhere, an N.G.O reported noting 407 similar cases of child abuse in Alego Usonga, Siaya County, in the past seven months. In Eldoret Town, a local N.G.O reported recording at least eight such incidents every week, while authorities in Kwale and Taita have raised an alarm over similar trends targeting teenagers and persons living with albinism respectively.
The increasing incidence of the vice led to Lamu police launching a campaign against early marriage and child defilement which has grown rampant in the region. In Garissa, Members of the County Assembly passed a motion to establish a Gender-Based Violence desk to help investigate cases of defilement and rape that have previously gone unreported.
All this, in the past two weeks alone. It’s safe to say that child safety is now of paramount concern.
While we look to our local administration and law enforcement agencies for protection, and rightly so, there’s a lot we can do ourselves to ensure our young ones feel safe and secure. For starters, (and pardon the cliché), there’s safety in numbers. If you’re unable to accompany your child yourself and can’t find someone you trust to do so, then teach them to always use the buddy system when in public areas, or when playing outside. It’s never too early to learn to be your brother’s keeper.
Be sure to train your children to always be alert and take in all that is happening around them. Beyond this, teach them to yell whenever they feel unsafe. If it’s someone making them feel unsafe, then they should make concerted, visible attempts to get away from them. This is bound to attract attention and deter a would-be offender.
Do you ever recall getting lost as a child? Perhaps at one of the amusement parks in Nairobi, where you got separated from your siblings at the swimming pool or in the crowds at a food court? One of our Supervisors at Village Market recently rescued a lost three-year old child and reunited her with her mother after they were separated at the food court. Should this ever happen with your young one, teaching them to find a mom with kids might be a safe bet.
While on this trip down memory lane, many would probably recall the “discipline” you’d get from your moms if they ever found out that you were at someone else’s house. Even worse, that they offered you something to eat and you agreed.
“Ni kwenu ndio hakuna chakula kwa hii estate? Ama unajaribu kuonyesha watu nini?” (Removes slippers)
We may look back on such memories and laugh now, but there were valuable lessons to be learnt there. Emphasize to your children that they should not enter vehicles they do not know. They shouldn’t accept food or drink from strangers, and shouldn’t enter houses or even neighbourhoods they aren’t familiar with either.
You should also consider drawing up an emergency contacts list and slipping this into your child’s school bag or school diary. It’s advisable to go a step further and assist them to memorize your phone number, just in case they need to reach out at a moment’s notice when in distress.
Lastly, quietly monitor or even question anyone who develops a keen and sometimes sudden interest in your children. More often than not, the perpetrators of crime such as defilement are those well known to your young ones.