Wednesday 2 September 2020

Let's Stop Child Abuse in Africa : 10 Practical Steps You Can Take

STOP!!!! You may be abusing your child without even realizing it!!! There are various forms of child abuse and sexual abuse is just one of them.

Let's get started...

Children are bundles of joy, priceless treasures to their parents specifically and the world in general. They are brought forth in families and entrusted to parents for nurturing, development and training. The parents are to love and care for them, shelter them,, inculcate values into them. The child's first world view is shaped from the home hence the saying 'Charity begins at home.'

Parents are entrusted with the enormous responsibility of discovering and harnessing each child's unique endowments, talents and gifting. These divine endowments define a child's personality and differentiate one child from the other even within the same family. A lack of understanding of this fundamental idea is the root and bane of child abuse especially in Africa

What is Child Abuse?

The United Nations defines a child as a human being under the age of the eighteen (18) years.  The General Assembly in 1959 adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which defines children’s rights to protection, education, health care, shelter, and good nutrition.

Simply put, 

Child abuse is when a child is denied his/her basic rights or happiness

When children are denied their basic needs including feeding, clothing, shelter, love, that's Child abuse. 

When children are undermined or used them against their will to further the cause of others. that's Child abuse. 

When their freedom is stifled or outrightly denied without consideration of their esteem or feelings, that's Child abuse.

Let's consider some practical examples of child abuse particularly within the African context.

1) Stop indiscriminate physical abuse! 

Flogging a child as a form of discipline is the most common form of physical abuse of children in Africa. Its intent is to correct a child's wrongdoing. It is believed that flogging/caning instils fear into a child and thereby acts as a deterrent to doing wrong and truancy. Hence the fear of the rod/cane becomes the beginning of the discipline. 

Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.

However, most African parents batter their children in the name of flogging them. This is because they flog at the spur of the moment, in the heat of anger.  The flogging thus becomes excessive and inflicts injuries, bruises and wounds on the child. 

That's when flogging becomes physical child abuse - when it stops been corrective but punitive in nature. You may want to read more on my idea of flogging a child as a form of discipline here

In summary,

Flogging is meant to be a tool to lovingly correct an errant child as opposed to being an instrument to unleash terror that leaves scars, wounds and injuries on the child's body. 

This concept holds true for children who are in their pre-teenage years. As children become teenagers, they naturally become rebellious and flogging them may become counter-productive. At this stage, a verbal correction may be a better option.

2. Stop verbal abuse!

Verbal abuse is another common form of child abuse. It occurs when parents demean their children by raining insults, abuses on them; calling them names when they are provoked. The effect of verbal abuse results in emotional trauma as children struggles with their self-esteem even till adulthood. Many become timid and shy, not knowing how to express themselves as a result of the inferiority complex developed.

Hence pouring invectives on a child for wrongdoing is not a healthy way of correcting them but rather it pulls them down and destroys their esteem. A child should grow up with praise rather than abuse. Praise builds the esteem that criticisms destroy

Let's stop verbal abuse, please!!! 

3. Stop denying children food as a form of punishment!

This act was quite rampant whilst growing up. Our parents erroneously denied food as a form of punishment for wrongdoing. This usually follows a round of verbal and physical abuse after a child errs. The understanding then was that an empty stomach would provoke some sort of remorse as well as a form of control. 

This punitive style, however, does more harm than good. When a child is denied his/her basic needs in the home, the tendency is to look for that need outside the home. If a child is denied love at home, then he/she goes looking for it outside, most times from friends. In the same vein, if a child is denied food at home, then he/she goes outside to vend and feed himself. This leads to exposure to vices including stealing, drugs, violence.

4. Stop exposure to alcohol and alcoholic drinks. 

The UN Charter defines a child as an individual under the age of eighteen (18) years. In Nigeria as well as most African countries, the legally permissible age to consume alcohol is eighteen. Hence anyone under 18 years is considered a minor and is prohibited by law from consuming alcohol. 

As a result of laxity in enforcement, however, this provision of the law is often violated and African parents and guardians now make it a point of duty of introducing their wards to alcohol before the legally permissible age erroneously believing it will toughen the child.

Asides the addictive tendencies, "alcohol can negatively impact on your child's problem-solving skills and performance at school as well as potentially affecting their body, mood and mental health."

5. Stop denying shelter (locking them out!) because they offended you!

Like food and clothing, shelter is one of the basic needs of children. Depriving them of this need because of an offence committed is a form of child abuse. Those who have experienced this form of maltreatment know how unpleasant and unsafe it could be

First, the child is exposed to the elements - harsh weather conditions (like a cold night) and an open invitation for mosquitoes to feast on. Then there is the exposure to negative influences which may result in teenage pregnancies, STIs etc. The stigmatization from this could last a lifetime!

Religious folks with stiff dogmatic beliefs are often prone to meting out this kind of treatment. In an effort in enforcing their beliefs on their children, they often go overboard, handling cases like teenage pregnancy with denial of shelter and sometimes outright disowning of the child!

This manner of punishment however only hardens the heart of the child and steers him into rebellion and hatred of the religion. Please let's stop it!

6. Stop the Failed Promises!

Do you remember promising your child a reward for performing a task like passing his/her exams? "Junior, you say, 'daddy would buy you a bicycle if you score straight As in your exam!'"

Excited and motivated, Junior studies hard, daily dreaming of how he would show off his bicycle to his friends in the neighbourhood.  He has absolute faith that daddy would keep his word. In his mind, owning a bicycle is a done deal. But alas! daddy was only joking!!!!

You can then imagine devastation when daddy doesn't keep his promise, even after he scored straight As! His hopes and dreams are shattered and he is heartbroken.

Dear parent, your children do not forget your promises. Their impressionable minds absorb and believe all that you tell them.

In the first instance, promising a child a gift to do tasks at home, or be in their best behaviour, or for good academic performance, and not fulfilling that promise is not good as a promise is a commitment to do something.

When a promise is made to a child, the child's hopes is heightened as he/she becomes expectant. When that promise is not fulfilled even after they have played their own part of the deal, the child's hopes are shattered and they will begin to lose their trust in you. Moreso, they get the impression that promises are not meant to be kept.

Please stop the empty promises! It is better not to promise at all that promise and not fulfil them. You don't want to come across as a liar and a dishonest person.

7. Stop the needless errands!.

There are age-appropriate errands your child can run at a certain age...

If you live in a densely populated area, a compound full of people, reduce the number of people sending your child unnecessary errands. Your child should not be made available to anyone who wants to sneeze, cough or drink water... Your child is not their errand Joe or delivery van.

Do you know a child shouldn't be sent to buy beer, cigarette, pad, for adults?

If a child cannot exercise their franchise to vote, then it is absolutely wrong on the side of adults to make children/minors run this kind of errands.

Why can't adults run their errands themselves?

8. Stop using children in the 'love triangle'.

Those big uncles, aunties and older cousins are guilty of this. They use their little cousins, nieces and nephews as their dispatch rider to deliver love notes/messages to their love interest, whenever things go south between them.

A child shouldn't be caught up in all that heartbreak muddle. Spare them that drama while you deal with your challenges without involving them.

9. Stop the comparisons!

Never compare a child to other children. It destroys their esteem and confidence level.

I know the aim is to challenge the child to do better but your child's mate is not and should not be their benchmark for success/progress or growth. Every child is unique in their own way and path. Their journeys are different. Let them grow at their own pace.

10. Stop the adult content programming.

TV content comes with ratings. There are this meant for kids, and those rated PG and those classified 18+... In all this, as adults do you pay attention to the warning labels on these films or you just overlook and allow them to?

It is wrong.

Children are very impressionable. Their inquisitive minds like a sponge, absorb whatever it is exposed to.  Hence whatever they are exposed to is what they manifest. Children shouldn't be allowed to view adult contents. They should be restricted. And adult content should not be watched during the time children are around because sometimes it will be very difficult to explain these things to them.

The whole idea is to identify our areas of fault and make adjustments.

And a bonus point...

11)  Stop using your children to fulfil your own dreams

Your child is not the fill-in-the-gap, of the childhood memory you wished you should have had. Let them wear clothes that are age-appropriate for them, and not for your image/person.

You did not have them to live life through your lens... Their life is not your childhood dreams or to relive your childhood fantasies.

Please let's stop living our dreams through their lives.

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  1. Nice reiterations! Kindna love the choice of words employed, easy understanding and each idea well tied.

    Forever to go, just keep it coming.


  2. Succinct...very. We all went through all that at some points growing up in Africa. Hopefully, this trend will be rectified in the generations to come. Well done bro.


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