By Thomas Bwire
“Don’t Kill me daddy Don’t Kill me, Don’t Kill me daddy was the screaming sound of the boy as I beat him with a belt without mercy, adding in some kicks and blows.” These are the words of a 52year old Chango Mamboleo, a father of five boys from Kibera slums.
Mr Mamboleo finally opens up after some convincing and him realizing how important it is to tell his story.
This story takes us down memory lane through the voices of parents, as they share their early year’s experiences of development, and how this led them to the physical punishment approach when dealing with their own children.
With watery eyes, Mamboleo takes some deep breaths at intervals, takes a pose, and leans back before composing himself to say the next sentence.
“My friend, I remember vividly when I was a child, at around age 5years to about 13 years my mother did not spare me. Her style of communication would scare you dumb.
Should you have made or had any intentions of replying to her during the merciless beatings, poor you, you would end up with more extra strokes of the cane than anticipated punishment,” says Mamboleo.
His mother was a no-nonsense parent, she was a true disciplinarian. Joking Mambeleo says they used to call her ‘Simba Marara.’ meaning a very tough lioness.
Whenever a mistake was made, the only language she knew was using the cane and anything she could encounter.
Mamboleo reveals that in the early years when he was about 5years, the physical abuse parenting approach really tormented him silently each time it happened.
“I lost count of the number of times I had physically been abused until it became normal,” adds MamboLeo.
“I remember during one incident when mum was beating me, she lamented that you are a spoilt child just like your father who is lost in the city and never sends money for upkeep here.
My mum was indeed beating my father through me,” adds Mamboleo. At that time, they were living in the upcountry while the dad was living in the city, now famously known as Nairobi County.
Mamboleo admits that physical abuse he was undergoing gradually pushed him away from his mother; they started having strained relationships of resentment.
He would now get to an extent to steal money from home, run away from home, and at times also engage in physical village fights with boys from his school.
The father of five boys confesses that once he got to have his family, he also took the same approach his mother used on him. “I have physically disciplined my children without mercy too, especially in their early years.
Among the boys that were not always lucky was the third-born. He has had a good share of different forms of physical discipline.” says MamboLeo.
“When did the physical abuse approach stop for your case?” I pose this question to him. “Well, this went on until I turned 14 years.
Mum used to give warnings early if you were found with a mistake. She would alternate the punishment, if you were beaten, that means you would eat that day.
If there was no beating, you would be forced to sleep without eating any meal,” remembers MamboLeo.
Once experienced in a family, physical punishment becomes a default discipline strategy against children, a vicious cycle that is almost impossible to break.
More than 15, 000 parents physically abuse their children in Nairobi county alone, with most cases going unreported.
“My approach followed quite similar patterns, like the way mum used to do it. I would go to the extent of tying them with a rope and give them proper beatings with an object that I would come across my hands.
“You know, experiences from our upbringing, as a family we saw physical punishment as the best way to discipline,” says MamboLeo.
MamboLeo’s wife also shares similar experiences she underwent in her early years. She admits to the countless beatings they received. It was very tough as a child among 12 other siblings. She explains.
“If dad could just see you with a boy, that was an automatic ticket to good beating. He did not spare time to ask why you were standing with a boy.
I was kicked, slapped and my two ears pulled upwards as my legs remained hanging in the air,” narrates Mercy Kombo.
Mercy also thoughtfully remembers how the dad was a no-nonsense human being. “As siblings, just seeing his shoes at the doorsteps sent a cold shiver across your spine.
You could tiptoe across the living room and see dad sitting on his favourite seat dozing off after school,” says Mercy.
“I went with the same method pattern when raising our children. I would use the ugali cooking stick to discipline my four boys then without any mercy.”
In her case the reason for the beatings was due to loss of money that would not be traced in the house, this meant that physical abuse approached to address the lost cash.
“I would shout at the boys and by the time they knew it, I was showering them with beatings using the ugali cooking stick,” narrates Mercy.
“I must admit that even one of the boys has bitten me, at that time I never felt sorry for that act. With time now, I feel sorry for the one boy who had to undergo such pains under my care as a parent,” says Mercy
Both Mercy and her husband now recommend that as a country, there is a greater need to conduct parental skills classes for students who join colleges and universities.
That way, they would be taken through better ways to be responsible parents in advance.
Physical and any other form of abuse among children can cause internal and external injuries. While some potential have far-reaching psychological consequences.
Data from the Joining Forces For Africa (JOFA) for all children report dubbed ‘Protecting Children during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond’ highlights some of the major forms of abuse children undergo in the early years among five African countries.
Data released in September 2021 shows that Ethiopia is leading the pack on physical abuse-related cases among children between ages 10-17 by 99.7%.
Kenya was ranked second at 89.5%.
The results of the above data increased during the COVID-19 pandemic period within the confines of the home setup.
Bonyo Elijah Don , lead secretary Joining Forces Alliance acknowledges that physical abuse-related cases begin way early during parenting journey.
Between ages 0 to 4years determines the relationship a parent and a child will have going forward.
“For example if the child is being forced to breastfeed, it starts to create emotional violence in a child. The child grows knowing that a physical act has to be administered for him to undertake an action,” notes Elijah.
To bring sanity and good governance on parenting skills in Kenya, Elijah recommends that Kenya should embrace the nyumba kumi model.
This is a model where 10 households within a community set-up come together to discuss security matters. The model can also be used to address parenting matters as an additional topic.
This will bring some form of accountabiity and save the government the headache of having to invest a lot of resources to fight child abuse cases in court.
“For example within the nyumba kumi cluster, if one household is physically abusing their children, the neighbours should take action to address the matter and not let it pass,’ adds Elijah
Hoyd Isadia, is the County Director of Children Services in Nairobi County. He admits that indeed Nairobi County is doing badly when it comes to cases of physical abuse among the city children. Informal settlements are the worst areas of concern.
“Kibra and Mathare slums report about 200 cases of physical abuse-related cases among children daily.
These cases reported mean that someone in the neighbourhood is informed about them such as the school authorities.”
His sentiment is backed by data collected between January 2021 to September 2021 from Nairobi County known as ‘Nairobi CaseLoad’ which paints a dim picture of how massive this matter is.
The report shows that 168 girls below the age of 10 years have been physically abused. While boys of the same age group account for 150 in the same period.
Data images source: Michelle Mulemi