“I looked at these three youngsters from my kitchen window as I got a glass to drink water. What was unfolding before my eyes was unbelievable and so I called the Nanny to take a look. There were three boys and one girl in the grass patch behind the apartment kissing with wild abandon. It was about twelve noon. And when they moved closer to the wall and the girl lay on the grass and lifted her dress and the first boy removed his pants, my Nanny and I screamed and shouted at them pointing. They pulled up their clothes and ran away. I don’t know whose children these were. I was so shocked! They couldn’t have been more than 12 or 13 years at most!”
This horrific story was narrated by a neighbour from apartment N8 yesterday evening at our monthly court resident’s meeting. We live in a gated apartment block in South C with about 150 apartments spread over 13 blocks. Everyone in the meeting, parents and non-parents alike where aghast at this story with the lady who was narrating it still pondering miserably over what would have happened had she not gone to her window at that time.
We speculated amongst ourselves whose children those could have been and what we would have done under the circumstances. One person suggested that the lady should have taken photos of them and walked from door to door to try and trace the parents. A gentleman from Block B proposed that the lady and her nanny should have quietly ran down the stairs to the scene of the act, surprised the perpetrators and beaten the hell out of them. There were many murmurs of concurrence with this proposal.
A general discussion followed about how our parenting standards have gone to the dogs as manifested by this happening and other mal happenings with children ‘nowadays’. There were heated discussions about what the world has come to and how we are living in very dark and promiscuous days. The chairman of the resident’s committee didn’t even know how to steer the meeting from that point back to the agenda.
The conversation took a twist where residents alike wondered about how we live in a community and do not know each other. The chairman challenged everyone in the meeting to know their neighbours, for it may have helped greatly if it was known where these children hailed from and their parents notified. A neighbour from Block D mourned about how whilst growing up the old African proverb “it takes two parents to produce a child but it takes an entire village to raise a child” was an unsaid given in earlier times, and how neighbours would parent each other’s children and discipline and morals were upheld.
One mother mused about the fire and brimstone that would rain, should one take disciplining another’s child into their hands, irrespective of the desire to correct an indiscipline situation that they may be witness to. Stories of law suits and other legal ramifications of doing that had people in the meeting declare they wouldn’t.
Another neighbour in jest talked about ‘Nyumba Kumi’ and that people had written it off as a white elephant, but that when de-politicized, would make us communities more vigilant, more caring and more likely to assist in emergency situations.
Given that this discussion had derailed the meeting for over 30 minutes, the Chairman decided to follow go with the flow and put out a call to action that all residents must embrace the Nyumba Kumi initiative and before the next court meeting have at least met and introduced themselves to all 12 neighbours within the same block as the first step before moving on to other blocks with time.
As the meeting broke up, my three neigbours from Block M and I walked back to our block with the promise that we would get to know each other better and reach out to the rest in the block as change needed to begin with us. We also made a pact that in the event that we witnessed any one of our children misbehaving to not hesitate to knock on each other’s doors to report. We further committed to receive the reports with goodwill knowing that the other parent means well and would like the same for themselves.
There’s a very cliché saying about how the more things change the more they remain the same. We have come full circle from living in a village set up, ‘graduating’ to highly urbanized situations to desiring the wisdom filled village environment once again.
The challenge I put out today – is to take stock of your neighbours, audit if you really know them and that if they found your child in a compromising situation, if they would take action to parent them on your behalf or at the very least knock loudly on your door to appraise you of the situation.