Recently, during my line of work I interacted with children of ages eight to 17 and we discussed child abuse in society.
They intimated that child abuse ramifications such as flogging, emotional abuse; and overworking, among others are normal phenomena in many communities. In fact, even starving them is the order of the day.
These forms of abuse are never reported because many parents view them as proper methods of parenting.
Other parents even quote the holy book to justify their actions in punishing children.
An assessment by Save the Children, a non-governmental organisation, estimated that 80 per cent of parents have used violence to restrain children from straying too far from home during the lockdown.
According to World Vision, child neglect, defilement and domestic violence are among the top 10 leading crimes in Uganda.
Seventy per cent of children in upper primary and lower secondary report physical violence, 12 per cent of young girls get married at 15 years and 57 per cent are married by the age of 18.
These statistical data reveal that children are being abused under the very nose of society.
Using defaming words that attack their intellectual potential has a lasting effect on the children’s psychological state. This causes them to lose their confidence and self-esteem. What is a person without self-worth in the 21st century?
Reports indicate soaring figures of underage girls getting pregnant and gender-based violence cases that have escalated because spouses who were not staying together have been forced by the prevailing circumstances to stay together, making children victims of their whims.
According to Save the Children, adolescent girls are being married in exchange for bride price, especially in the north and northeast. Last week, they recorded 25 new cases of child marriages.
It should be noted that the lockdown has worsened the plight of children.
Children are overworked and economically exploited through child labour. The strenuous and non-enjoyable work makes children to develop a negative attitude towards work.
But the question is, where are we heading with a generation that has a negative attitude towards work?
As such, it is important for adults to be mindful of the children’s psychosocial well-being.
The Unicef says children around Uganda will likely face increasing threats to their safety and well-being – including mistreatment, gender-based violence, exploitation, social exclusion and separation from caregivers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Consequently, there should be modalities of protecting children. To achieve this, parents must be vigilant to know the whereabouts of their children and also proactively protect their children from wolves.
Too much exposure to the Internet for example can lead to the adoption of cultures and habits that are unacceptable in society.
It also increases the risk of online child sexual exploitation–something that most Ugandan children are ill-informed about. The same can be said of television. Too much of anything is bad, therefore, there is need to control the use of the Internet and television.
We should also equip our children with skills as gardening and occasional baking, among others, will also help them cope with the lockdown. Most important we can report cases of child abuse to authorities in order to steer our country to greater heights.
Mr Arnold Wangwe