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Parents’ holiday headache as sex pests, drugs pose threat

Friday November 8 2019

school holiday

Students board matatus at Nyeri bus stop after closing school for Christmas holiday on October 22, 2019. Children need to participate in constructive programmes while on holiday. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

CAROLINE NJUNG'E
By CAROLINE NJUNG'E
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Companies offer camp activities at a fee, but many of these are out of the reach of ordinary parents. What are they to do with their children?

Now that schools have closed for the long holidays, what do you plan to do with your children?

Brenda Kinya (43) has three children aged 13, 10 and 6. Like many parents in the urban areas, she becomes anxious whenever schools close for the holidays because she often wonders what to do with them.

“In our time, school holidays were uncomplicated. We’d play with friends or visit our grandparents upcountry. Today, you cannot afford to allow your children outdoors or just send them upcountry. There are many bad things that could happen to them,” says Kinya.

She is referring to the upsurge in crimes against children across the country in recent years, including sexual molestation and abductions, vices whose perpetrators, research has shown, are most likely to be people known to the children, such as close relatives and neighbours.

CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN

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Despite an 11-year-old child-protection law, children remain at high risk of sexual abuse.

A 2018 report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics indicated that Nairobi County leads in cases of sexual violence against children below five years.

A total of 408 incidents were reported in Nairobi in 2016. Next in line of the counties that are most hostile to children was Nakuru at 404 up from the 235 cases recorded the previous year. Nakuru was followed by Kakamega, which recorded 248 incidents.

The other challenge is drug abuse. In a report released in June this year by the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (Kippra) titled "Status of Drugs and Substance Abuse Among Primary School Pupils in Kenya", children as young as four years were found to be abusing drugs, which they access during school holidays and over the weekends.

Obviously, children are not safe outdoors, but they are not safe indoors either, thanks to the internet, which, while it has brought the world to our doorsteps, has also unleashed an unprecedented amount of unfiltered content, a lot of it immoral and harmful.

CHURCH EVENTS

According to research, one in four visitors to popular porn site Porn Hub is aged between 18 and 24.

There is also gadget addiction. Kinya, who lives in Nairobi’s South C estate, says that there is no playground, or any safe space for that matter, where her children can play or engage in any form of physical activity.

As a result, during the weekends and holidays, they are usually holed up indoors either watching TV or playing video games.

“I know that this is not a healthy way for children to spend their time, but what other options do they have?” she wonders.

Many churches today have introduced a variety of programmes intended to teach children about God and keep them busy over the holidays.

The programmes, which last between a few days to weeks, cost between Sh5,000 to Sh20,000 depending on the church.

During the December holidays, most churches hold various youth-focused camps, one of them being where boys are circumcised and initiated into manhood.

Most of these camps last between a week to two weeks and cost between Sh8,000 to Sh25,000.

ART CAMP

Business-savvy individuals have been fast to sniff out the challenge that is modern day parenting and are offering parents like Kinya a way out.

Many of these alternatives, however, are out of reach for a majority of Kenyan families.

The Nairobi Art Centre, for instance, will hold an Art Camp from December 2 to 20.

A half-day of activities will cost Sh2,500 per child, while a full day will set the parent back Sh3,500.

The Young Engineers Summer Holiday Camp is charging Sh10,500 per week for a variety of activities that take place between 9am to 4pm.

For music lovers, Linda Muthama Institute of Music is charging Sh14,000 for a two-week training or Sh7,500 for a week.

And if your child loves to dance, the Academy of Dance and Art in Karen charges Sh14,000 a month per child.

There is the Furaha Creatives’ Kids Adventure Camp that is offering a two-week programme that costs Sh1,200 per day.