There was a time when parenting in Uganda was a community responsibility. Every adult had the right to question a child loitering by the road-side why they were not in school.
They also had the right to instruct the child to either run home or return to school, and the children of those days would follow such instructions without any hesitation. Where the child showed a negative attitude or disobedience, the adult had the right to even pick up a stick and spank the child, in what was called pumping some sense into him/her .
Then came that age when we got more conscious. Our parents had attended formal schooling systems and become elites who did not want their children to go through whatever ‘bad’ experience they had in their childhood. Other than that, some of us had been woken up by non governmental organisations who taught us about human rights.
We started becoming “pig headed” and would question any adult who tried to correct us, why they could not mind their business.
We also reminded them that they were not our parents to tell us what to do. Of course, our parents were learned and knew so much that we felt they were the only ones in the right position to tell us what to do.
We stopped paying attention to society and shifted all focus to ourselves. Issues such as respect for virginity, protection of family image, decency, among others became archaic; at least those were not values we could carry to the 21st century.
Child immorality became the order of the day because we watched adult movies and learnt how to kiss and do things inappropriate for our ages.
That was a huge sign of liberty and respect of our rights because no adult distracted us from kissing by the roadside, having sex in corridors, dressing in sexually inciting manners, visiting boys in our neighbourhoods or even men old enough to be our fathers or grandfathers at any time we wished.
Then Covid-19 came. Girls of school going age outnumbered married women in hospitals, clinics and other antenatal care facilities. Before we knew it, journalists picked up the development and, within the blink of an eye, it was on our television screens, social media platforms as well as on the lips of our opinion leaders.
Then the calls started flickering to have schools re-opened to save our children from early, unplanned pregnancies.
Parents across Uganda are now shamelessly echoing the call, alleging that schools were the safest place for our children.
What bothers me is; should our homes not be the safest place for our children? What happened to teaching our children morality? I want to suppose that, as a Christian-dominant society, we know the Bible verse which tells us to teach our children the right ways and they will not depart from it.
It is high time parents admitted their failures, returned to basics and saved society and our children’s future from the devastative effects of those unplanned teenage pregnancies.
The argument that schools are the safest place should be left to school directors choking in debts, teachers with no alternative sources of income or parents running away from their responsibility.
As for the rest of us, let’s go communal as we wait for Covid-19 to disappear to wherever it will choose.
Communications professional and author