“It is better to build strong men than to repair broken men.”A child’s upbringing is a multidimensional approach that involves the family, immediate community members, school and church, listing but the least. Each of the aforementioned contributes extensively to the proper upbringing of a child. Januz Korczak in his works further said, “Children are not the people of tomorrow, but are people of today. They have a right to be taken seriously, and to be treated with tenderness and respect. They should be allowed to grow into whoever they were meant to be – the unknown person inside each of them is our hope for the future.”[
The Kenyan law defines a child as anybody below the age of 18. However, dynamics and times have changed. Lifestyles and exposure levels for children and adults have not been left behind. It remains to be seen if the law will be amended to reflect any possible changes in dynamics surrounding the culpability and/or know how of children at the ages expressly provided for in statute to constitute an age of criminal responsibility. In my opinion the society occupied by human beings is in a constant competition for change with itself, it evolves and revolves around this epicenter and the law in such a civilized society must evolve to be in tandem with the change. A law that has been caught up in a time warp will become irrelevant and ultimately sweep it into the tombs and dustbins of history.
A child’s first predisposition environment to crime is his individuality. There are traits that are connected to birth complications, temperamental difficulties, sensation seeking and hyperactivity; all of which are a recipe for possible delinquent behaviors in later pre-teenage, teenage and adult life. A child’s behavior and character is influenced by, inter alia, genetic, societal factors.
Family is the first social setting that a child is exposed to. The family has been defined as, “…a natural ad fundamental unit of society and the necessary basis of social order…” In its preamble_ the Convention on the Rights of the Child underscores the espousal by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that, “…childhood is entitled to special care and assistance.” Indeed, the Convention acknowledges that a child’s full ad harmonious development of his/her personality is only possible when he/she grows up in a family environment punctuated by virtues of happiness, love and understanding. Definitely the aforementioned values are only plausible in a family that has caring parents that systematically note the different growth stages of their child and are concerned with his/her well-being. Such a family pays keen attention to the child’s emotions and behavior change. Further it engages in addressing immediate demands of different times of growth.
The Holy Bible underscores that if you [parents] bring up children in good ways [ways of the Lord] they will not depart from them when they are old [when they leave by the side of their parents either for school or other social set ups]. This might just be a romantic presumption in some cases. Many delinquent children did not become such due to lack of good parental teaching and upbringing rather by choice to discard the good behaviors, association with deviant peers and peer rejection. As noted earlier children interact with family immediately they are born to the time they are ripe to face the world. Children, like many other people love to feel the sense of belonging and thus treat peer rejection as a grave matter. Rejection leaves children with lesser positive options but becoming part of the deviant peer groups. In attempting to fit say to a group of young boys whose pleasure is bhang smoking, a child who would have otherwise not partaken.
Community can be said to be the surrounding that shares a common law, tradition, understanding and mannerisms. However, civilization and rural-urban migrations may have rendered extinct the fact of common tradition. Traditionally children were perceived as belonging to the entire community and that an inherent duty existed on every member of the society to see to it that children were well disciplined and grew up to fit into societal dictates of good moral values, behavior and character. In the present day, society and/or community has a diminished role in the upbringing of children. There are many radicalized children in the neighborhood that unfortunately are being irrigated by the very citizenry that traditionally were morally mandated to bring up well cultured children. For instance, the society today thrives in radicalization on ill-conceived religious believes, drug and substance trade political misconceptions and an era of ‘everything goes’ is just but the norm in the society today.
Technology has without a doubt eased the way of life in many ways. Technology has eased and fastened communication, improved business transactions, and in general it has reduced the world into a global village. It has made information readily available. However, technology is destructive in its own ways. Today, children have exposure to technology, mobile phone devices and unchecked internet usage. The internet is a market place of all sorts of bad and good information. It is in the internet that there exists radical religious information, e.g. jihadist information, pornographic materials and other destructive materials that predispose children to such antisocial behaviors. Unchecked use of the internet has thus exposed children to materials that not only beyond their consumption but also harmful to their proper upbringing and exposing them to dangerous vices that inculcate in them destructive habits and behaviors.
In the upshot, Conventions have been ratified, assented and acceded to, municipal laws have been enacted, conferences have been convened and resolutions passed, lobby groups and non-governmental organizations have been formed; all these with a clarion call to protect children from crime, abuse and ensure that they develop fully, achieve their dreams, invest in and assure the continuity of the human race. However, much remains to be done. Children are today more exposed to danger than in the primitive years of the former centuries. The time of resolute action plan and manifest political good will is long overdue. However, it is never too late to address the gaps in protecting children and take up this exceptional opportunity to sufficiently address the menace that the world finds itself in with regard to the prevalent risk factors that predispose children to crime.
BY MR. ALFAYO ONGERI WYCLIFFE (LAWYER)