A better way …. let us rehabilitate them instead of eliminating them

A video of  people believed to be police in civilian clothes shooting people emerged on 1st April,2017 caused an uproar on social media of what many called extra judicial killing. Many people called for the arrest and prosecution of the police officers who had were said to have committed the crime.

However police boss  Japheth Koome defended the police action saying that the  persons gunned were criminals on the way to commit a crime. He said that the criminals have been terrorizing Eastleigh resident for a long time and action was needed. As the story developed it emerged that the two were children below the age of 18 years old. This article is compilation of a discussion of  Forum of the African Child whatsapp group that was trying to get an alternative solution rather than killing children in crime.

Most of the group of over 250 child protection practitioners did not agree with the criminal ways of the children, they however agreed it is an emerging and increasing child protection challenge in urban Kenya.  Different members gave example of young children who are involved in criminal activities. This is huge challenge In low income residential areas parents are living in fear for their children of joining criminal gangs, while in middle and high income families children are abusing drugs. There were those who thought killing a few of the gang members will cause to deterrent to crime, while the majority said they did not agree killing the children was a solution.

In a reflective moment the group agreed that a solution is needed. One of the group members Edwin, narrated his ordeal in the hands of young criminals where we robbed off everything, this led him start a rescue and rehab project for the boys. He believed there is something that has led the children in the criminal path. Caroline a prosecutor said killing children is denying them a second chance to be productive members of the society. She admitted that in her line of work she meets with different kind of children in conflict with law and she has to ask herself what would have been done to prevent the children from being in crime.

Rosline Olumbe a lecturer and head of Institute of child development at Daystar University said that for children to be in the street something in the children system is broken. She added that children live in a system made up of the of 3 factors. These are individual characteristics (which are innate but also learnt); family resources (including good parenting. Support and nurturance); and lastly community (includes schools, churches, mosques, you and I). How effective each if these systems act on a child highly affects the child development outcomes. . In development she meant Physical, Psychological, Emotional, Social and Spiritual Development. The breaking of the system leads to either the child being violated or violent, leading to cycle of violence.

ecological model

ECOLOGICAL MODEL OF CHILD DEVELOPMENT  By  Urie Bronfenbrenner (1917-2005)

This was agreed by  Bernice Nderitu a child psychologist and founder of Nisela group, who said that the children are not beyond repair. They are missing something from the system that they find in the gangs. She said that this needs are not necessarily basic needs of food, clothing and shelter but can be love, affection, acceptance, sense of belonging, guidance and  family.  She emphasized that we cannot blame one factor, we have to strengthen each of these factors for positive outcomes.

This was proved by Okari Mangiti who works in a street families rehabilitation program by Pendekezo Letu, who said some the children just need an ear to listen to and a place to run. Patricia Kwamboka from Amref Health Africa,  said  Amref  is implementing a child protection and development centre which offers rehabilitation and development opportunities to children with street  connections.  The thrust of the intervention is talent development  alongside psychosocial support, parental and community involvement.

AMREF works with children who  are in gangs and have managed to save many from a life of crime and ending up with a bullet in their head. Patricia admits that they have also lost a couple children to drug overdose and crime.  She said that they work closely with the police and they will let them know when a child Amref is supporting’ is on a “wanted”  list.  These has helped AMREF to focus  efforts on the child.  Patricia says that In the 17 years  Amref has implemented this approach she knows of young men saved from a life of crime and those they have attended their funerals because they we shot down by police or members of the public meted mob justice on them.

She concluded by saying that “We need to look at our home grown solutions which are many and support them.  If you talk to the police they don’t enjoy gunning down children.”

The group agreed with Patricia that there is need for immediate and long term interventions. In the short term there is need for

  • Awareness creation at community level through different channels such radios, barazas, churches, mosques and social media on crime prevention.
  • Urgent psycho social support for children in conflict with the law  at the courts, remand homes and government rehabilitation centers, which have become training ground for criminals.
  • There is need to review rehabilitation programs such as Amref and Pendekezo letu to learn the best practice and how they can be scaled up.
  • The group also agreed there is need for an inter-agency working group for crime prevention among children. This group should review and give recommendations on diversion measures and programs to government to prevent crime among children.

For long term solutions, the group agreed that there is need for

  • Family strengthening program by government, this will include compulsory parenting skills for parents, mentorship for young boys and girls, social protection for income challenged families and creation of employment.
  • Review effectiveness of rehabilitation programmes, consider diversion into appropriate rehab programmes in deserving cases.
  • Carry out post institution supervision, systematic vigilance by all Juvenile Justice System actors.
  • Parents  should included as active participants where their children are in conflict with the law.
  • Call for serious action against adults that recruit children into crime or facilitate guns and drugs, involve children.
  • Peace initiatives so that society can see they can change having role models or ambassadors.
  • Train police on child protection,  child development and child participation.
  • Conduct a research on what are the drivers to crime among children
  • Increased child participation in the justice system.

In conclusion the group said that everyone has a role in ending violence against children and ensuring that what happened to the two children does not happen again.

The compilation of the Whatsapp discussion was done with cooperation with the Forum of  of African Child. The Forum for the African Child can be reached through info@institutechildstudies.org

Mtoto News is an online Platform of News Information and Resources on children. Which aims at having a impact on children by making them visible.  You can read the news here mtotonews.com and follow us on Telegram, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram on @mtotonews

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