This last Monday, parents and guardians collecting children from a Harare suburban primary school were greeted with the shocking news that a grade four boy had raped an Early Childhood Development (ECD or Grade Zero) pupil at the same school.Inside Track with Grace Mutandwa
The boy had followed the young girl into the toilet and forced himself on her. He was however disturbed by a group of fellow pupils who had seen him enter the toilet and had probably wondered why he was going into the small girls’ toilet.
Rape is a serious matter and, one we normally associate with depraved adults. That a young boy of that age could get the urge to force himself on a fellow pupil should be devastating news for any parent.
By the time other children were being picked up after lessons, the father of the boy had arrived to talk to the school head about his son’s shocking behaviour.
I have always wondered if our children are not getting sex education way too early because of the Aids pandemic. A schoolteacher told me that they had started talking to grade one children about various diseases and HIV and Aids was one of them. The children get seriously taught about HIV and Aids in grade three and start being tested on their knowledge of the virus and the different ways one gets infected at that stage.
Grade four children are usually nine or 10 years old, depending on how early or late they started school. At that age, we do not expect our children to have intimate sexual knowledge, let alone to have developed a raging sexual urge.
It is important that children learn about sex and HIV and Aids.
Teachers are doing a great job, but they need to be supported in their efforts by parents. Our children are not the sole responsibility of teachers and our domestic help. We need to ensure that the education they get is preserved and used in a responsible manner.
When I visit my neighbourhood shopping centre, I see many young children below 12 buying DVDs that I would never have allowed my children to watch at that age. I would still be very uncomfortable if my children watched them even when they turn 40!
There is so much pornographic material on our streets and the people who peddle it do not care about age restrictions. We have parents too whose appetite for porn is worrying.
On satellite television, there is also material that should not be watched by young children, which is why they encourage adult viewers to password or pin-lock such programmes. Without the pin or password, your children cannot watch X-rated movies.
If you buy porn DVDs and tell your children not to watch them, that will not stop them. Children are always curious about things they are not allowed to view or touch.
Be a responsible adult
Locking porn DVDs away might be a good idea because when parents are at work and children are on holiday, they tend to rifle through things in the house. Better still, be a responsible adult and do not bring lurid things that will destroy your children into the home.
Parents need to be strict with their children
Parents have to accept that children can be evil! They can lie and do things that you would never have expected of them. If you are not strict about what your children should not bring into the home, they will easily accept damaging DVDs from friends whose parents are equally lax.
As a parent, you have the right to go through your children’s school bags and do random searches in their bedrooms. Privacy is a luxury any sensible and decent parent cannot afford — it might cost you in the long run.
You are the parent, you must show that you wield the authority in the home and not the other way round. Know what your children read, what music they listen to and what television programmes or DVDs they watch. It is your responsibility as a parent to ensure that you do whatever is possible to raise a child fit for a normal society.
Some children might get an early interest in indulging in sex not only because of what they have read, learnt or watched on television, but because they have seen parents or older siblings doing it.
Not all the children come from big houses where they have their own bedrooms. Some share with older siblings while others sleep in the same room as their parents.
In a case where parents share a room with children, the tendency might be to wait until they assume the children are fast asleep before having sex. The child or children might wake up while you are busy and they just watch and wonder, but some might want to find out how it feels.
Both the grade four pupil and the young girl will require therapy. This young girl will be scarred for life. School is supposed to be fun and an opportunity to make friends that one might even carry into adult life, but she will remember her first year in school with trepidation. She might never be able to trust men or have a normal loving relationship. Therapy might help her get through the trauma, but this is a scar she will always have.
The parents of the boy might blame demons but sometimes that is an easy way out. Blaming bad friends will just not cut it. They need to fully interrogate the way they have raised (or not) their son and work at saving their child before he graduates into other gory adventures.
Admittedly, some children are just born nasty and no matter how much their parents try to instil good behaviour, they will always find a way of inflicting pain and harm on others. But as parents, we just have to keep working at raising good children.
As society, we also need to take a good look at ourselves and ask ourselves what it is we are doing to ensure that the children around us are children we can be proud of. That a five-year-old girl should have to deal with this at such a tender age, is a tragedy and we should hang our heads in shame.