8 February 2013

Cameroon: Responsible Parenthood

Some questions are not appropriate to ask when certain things happen.

If that were not the case, one of such questions would have been to know what the little Joel Kamdem was doing on the road alone in Bafoussam before he was knocked down by a motor-bike. The second question which many who are aware of this sad news are asking is what must have pushed th motor-bike rider to violate traffic light and ran over the three-year old boy.

Some people may think it is no longer time to pose questions since the damage has been caused, but rather to provide a solution to the young boy knocked down on his way back from nursery school on how he could survive the accident. The logic remains that such fact-finding questions could serve as catalysts for solutions for similar incidences in future. That said, the story is really pathetic and empirically translates what can be regrettably described as acts of irresponsible parenthood in all its multifaceted dimensions. Firstly, the little Kamdem is only three years, a year younger than the official nursery school age. Secondly, both the parents and the school abandoned him to find his way back home after school. Thirdly, the motor-bike rider manifested a sense of irresponsible parenthood by ignoring the red lights, knocking down the child and escaping.

The Bafoussam incident is not the first and may not be the last, but it has widened the floodgate of concern which if extrapolated could coerce the authorities that be seek a sustainable solution. While waiting for such a magic solution, it is important to note that the Bafoussam accident is a reminder of the challenges that await the whole chain of actors responsible for child upbringing. These include the parents, the school administration, policy makers and the community as a whole. In fact, before a day runs out, a child of school-going age passes through the hands of almost all these people.

But as fate will have it, some members of the whole chain behave as if the responsibility is circumscribed to a few. The case of nursery schools is appalling, especially in urban towns. Cases abound where parents abandon their kids in school premises after classes putting them into serious state of trauma. In the same vein, some schools have very minimum security facilities that can protect the children; no fence, no guards, etc. Some make spotty effort to provide buses for transportation but how accessible are they for the average Cameroonian parent?

That notwithstanding, the African belief is that a child belongs to the parents only when still in the womb. Once out, the child becomes the property of society, reason why it is the responsibility of society to care for him. It is unpardonable for a mature person to refuse to help a child across the road on grounds that he or she is not his or her child. We see all these happen in our streets. We see responsible-looking drivers in taxi cabs and private cars fight over priority on the highways with kids who are struggling to get across the road.

The situation is disturbing and needs urgent redress. In some countries, notably Western nations, it is completely forbidden by law to allow a child alone outside the homestead. Parents who allow their kids out to the streets end up being summoned for questioning and consequently pay very high sums for the negligence. The Bafoussam incident is one occasion for authorities to tighten the knot of law in order to save our kids from danger.

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