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September 18, 2018

Parents Must Return From Exile

Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi. Photo/File
Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi. Photo/File

Students are prohibited from arriving in school before 7.15am under new rules from the Education ministry. The rules, enacted this year, also state that public and private schools will run from Monday to FridayClass hours will be from 8am to 3.30pm, while 3.30pm to 4.45pm will be time for co-curricular activities.

The regulations were published in April by Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi. I completely agree with the directive. However, I noticed that this was met with anger, bile, venom and the sort of hate we only ever have for al Shabaab and Mungiki.

Kaimenyi, poor man, is at fault for asking parents to spend a little more time with their children and stop using schools and classrooms as baby sitters and foster care. He was abused on morning radio shows in ways that suggested for a second that those children didn't belong to the parents but to the schools and the state. A friend told me the prevailing belief amongst many parents in Kenya is "nimezaa - let the schools and the teachers do the rest".

As you continue to roll your eyes and glare at Kaimenyi and those who support his directive, allow me to add Pope Francis to the mix. Last week, The Holy Father made a profound statement that could easily be the final part of the sentence started by CS Kaimenyi. Allow me to shock you. The two are saying the same thing and they're speaking and dealing with the most self indulgent and brattish of parents there is.

Pope Francis made a very bold statement asking parents to come out of exile and take up their role as leaders and teachers in their children's lives. “If family education regains its prominence, many things will change for the better. It's time for fathers and mothers to return from their exile — they have exiled themselves from educating their children — and slowly re-assume their educative role,” the Pope said on May 20.

We have reached a true crisis in our society — one that is far more serious than any childhood illness. The real, significant crisis is the fact that so many parents today have given up being parents. They feel helpless, unable or uninterested in actually parenting their children. 

Prof Kaimenyi and Pope Francis are working two ends of the same job. One is subtly trying to stop you from banishing your kids out of your life and also stop the children from burning out in school; while the other is insisting that you stop being afraid to parent.

Francis observed how frequently parents are “paralyzed” by the fear of making mistakes, and hesitate to correct their children. He recalled an episode from his own life when he had said a bad word to a teacher. The next day his mother came to the school and made him apologise and then corrected him at home. Nowadays this wouldn’t happen, because too often a teacher who tries to discipline a child is criticised by the parents, he said. 

I read that and wondered if Pope Francis was referring to certain Nairobi parents. They won't discipline their children, but woe to anyone who dares to correct their errant brat. Incidentally most of us believe that our children are perfect little angels. Okay then, so that you can know for sure and correct what isn't angelic, let's work with Kaimenyi's time guidelines. Come on, let's do it. Unless of course hanging out with your kids fills you with dread. Does it? Why?

Pope Francis also cautioned parents against commanding or discouraging their children by asking them to do what they aren’t able to. This one I must admit had quite the sting to it.

He said" "When a parent tells their small child to run up the stairs without taking them by the hand and helping them step by step, they are 'exasperating' the child, and asking them to do something they can’t." I must admit that was a tough one to take but I stand corrected by Pope Francis.

The Holy Father believes one of the problems is that parents today more and more entrust their children to “experts” of one sort or another and therefore “run the risk of excluding themselves from the life of their children.” He pulls no punches on this matter, explaining:

The so-called “experts” have multiplied, who have taken the role of parents even in the most intimate aspects of education. On emotional life, on personality and on development, on rights and duties the “experts” know everything: objectives, motivations, techniques. And parents must only listen, learn and adapt themselves. Deprived of their role, they often become excessively apprehensive and possessive in dealing with their children, to the point of not correcting them ever.

"Parents need to be parents. Children must be taught by example what is right and wrong. And we must give up the inane notion that we are powerless to stop the slide into the abyss. 

"It is time that fathers and mothers return from their exile — because they have exiled themselves from the education of their children,” he states, because he believes it's time for parents to “reassume fully their educational role.”

Instead of throwing up our hands, pointing fingers at teachers, blaming media and video games for cooking our children's brains and reacting to Kaimenyi with unwarranted venom, we must roll up our sleeves and go about the business of getting our own families in order. Now. Before it's too late. We can't continue to have children and then pass them on to be raised by others. It's simply inhuman and worse still, the children know we are avoiding them. Yes, they do.

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