Something To Ponder

South African Children in Pretoria - credits: Picfair

Something To Ponder

Which Way Now For The South African Child?

When the current generation of parents and grandparents were young, discipline started in the home, then the community, the school and finally law enforcement if it ever got there. By the time a child was sent to court and then on to juvenile home or correction facility, they would have been seen as being totally out of line and headed in the wrong direction and a higher form of discipline and counselling was needed. Many who could not be tamed at home learnt how difficult life could be and how to take responsibility for their actions in such facilities.

There are some today, who are heads of their own homes and well respected members of society who were once guests of the state in a correctional institution during their youth. They learnt discipline and became responsible members of society. There are others that even the discipline and counselling offered in custody did not deter from their dogged pursuit of self destruction. Because, indiscipline which breeds crime does not only harm others, it eventually destroys its captive.

Most religious books including the Bible encourage disciplining children from early age. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it” is an admonition from the Bible to parents as well as guardians of children. The book of Proverbs warns parents that if they spare the rod, they will spoil the child. If that is not clear or simple enough to understand, it goes on to say in another part that foolishness dwells in the heart of a child and a rod of correction will drive it from him. In yet another, it says, that if you beat your child he will not die. If the child will not die after a spanking, then it is clear the administration of such is not to harm but to train. It is not supposed to be severe beating that a child is maimed or killed, but enough to help him remember not to repeat the offence or anything that looks like an offence.

I do not know much about other cultures but I know in the African culture, discipline and respect for your elders, help for the sick and weak was a fundamental part of bringing up a child. I remember when little, in primary school, if a child was caught by a grown up doing mischief on the road, regardless of whether that grown up knew the child or not, they would admonish them. If the crime warranted padding on the seat of wisdom, it would be administered there and then, the child would be asked to lead the grown up to their parent’s home.

Upon arriving home, the person who brought the child home would narrate to the parent what they were caught doing and how they were disciplined. The parents most often than not would take hold of the errant one, and in the presence of the guest, give their own version of the cane. In this way, children learnt to behave even when alone. You would not be caught sitting down when a teacher was passing by, it was disrespectful. You stood up till they passed a good ways down the path before sitting or continuing with whatever game you were playing. If you used a public transport home from school, and an older person was standing up for lack of a seat, you stood immediately without being asked and gave up your seat to the elderly, sick, pregnant or mothers with little babies. Such level of discipline and respect is hard to find these days.

This week, we saw two seriously bewildering reports in the media. The first one was where the Constitutional Court ruled that corporal punishment cannot be used in private homes.  Seriously? I mean now parents have no right to even use a slipper to their errant child’s bottom for fear of the law? And how are they supposed to teach them that indiscipline hurts? How are they supposed to reign in an already out of hand generation? Who will take the responsibility when the children become completely out of control like the 14-year-old boy from Delft who stabbed his father to death or the other 14-year-old boy accused of murdering his mother in Kuils River?

You would think that the same system that is curtailing the power of the parent in bringing up  their own children would then at least take over and control these children. You would be very wrong in thinking so. That is because, in the same week, we were told that a “child law expert” had said that incarceration was not necessarily the answer to dealing with children who commit murder.  Seriously? So where are those children supposed to go? Left to run mayhem in the homes where parents cannot discipline them or have already been killed, community, schools and wherever they will?

We all saw what happened the last few weeks when the youth went wild and started looting and destroying businesses that were owned by those perceived to be imposters in their society. It was not the elderly South Africans who were doing this, it was their young. In the last number of months, it has also become like a trend for one community or another within South Africa to report the missing member of a family who most often is a woman or a young girl. Soon, their murdered bodies are found abandoned somewhere. Do you know who perpetrate these heinous crimes? The youth! And now the courts and so called experts want to stop any kind of disciplining of these children whether at home or behind bars?

In the recently released crime statistics, it was reported that more than 700 murders were committed by children between April last year and March this year. Children here means those aged less than sixteen I guess, those not qualified to be issued the National Identity Cards. If they start tasting blood so young, and nothing is done about it, whether at home or in the government’s correctional facilities, why are we then surprised when in their 20s and 30s they light up the streets killing, maiming and torching other human beings? Have we not aided and abetted them as a country? An African proverb says that a sapling is straightened when young. This means that if you do not help the young tree by supporting it so it can grow straight when still a sapling, it will be impossible help it grow straight it is older and already crooked.

South Africa, this is the time to correct, guide and discipline our young so that in later years, we avoid the shame and destruction they could bring on the nation. This week, the president had to send envoys to visit a number of African countries that were aggrieved and angered by the actions of our youth during the attacks on other African migrants in this country. The world watched as the rest of Africa called for the ostracising of this nation and many even went as far as shunning a continental meeting that would have helped South Africa attract investments to her shores.

This week’s developments from the courts and so called child experts clearly show we have not learnt a thing from our mistakes. We are clueless as to the dynamics that affect and influence our society. South Africa, it is time to wake up and revisit your roots. Seek the guidance of the old, how they did it during their time and it would do you a lot good to listen and follow their steps. The future of this nation is the youth and the youth are spiraling out of control. What then is the future? Which way now for our children South Africa?