The recent news in South Africa seems to be full of raped, abused and murdered children. It is enough to make you want to crawl under the covers, with your children, and never come out. But, of course, that’s not very practical – especially as we have swimming lessons today – so I challenged myself to come up with what I would do if I was the Benevolent Dictator of South Africa.
While I realise that there is something very wrong with people who rape and torture children, and something very wrong with a society that breeds them, I don’t think we can change the nature of psychopaths overnight. What we have in our power to change is the way we look after our children – the power to make sure that the children of townships and informal settlements are properly supervised. Because therein lies the problem. And to be clear – I am not judging the parents – they face economic and social and educational challenges that I cannot fathom. But what I know is that my own children are under adult supervision every minute of the day – and that is what every child deserves in a country where we can’t guarantee that the ice-cream man won’t hurt them.
SO – and sorry to have kept you waiting while I rant – my answer is this. In every densely populated, high risk area I would appoint Child Monitors – one per square kilometre at least. They would be paid a salary (by government) thereby creating employment. They would have to show 3 character references to get the job. They would all be women (remember, I am a Benevolent Dictator. I don’t have to answer to the Constitutional Court). They would be dressed in a particular, easily recognisable way that children would be taught to identify. In their area, a place of safety would be identified – either a government building or a volunteer home. Caregivers could leave their children at this place. Government food grants would service the place of safety, making sure each child is fed and making it attractive for the children to be there. The Child Monitor would “check” her headcount once an hour – checking that every child that is in her jurisdiction is accounted for – whether at school, or with their parents, or in the place of safety. The Child Monitor would have a panic button accessing police or security services.
Listen – I’m not saying this is a perfect plan. One square kilometre is a big area, and incidents would slip through the cracks. But it’s something. You can probably suggest refinements – I’m Benevolent, so I take advice.
My point: We need a plan to better supervise our children. (And I mean the BIG “our”). By doing that, we keep them safe, and we prevent a knock-on generation of abused and damaged people who perpetrate the same harm. We give our children a sense that they are valued. I believe that every child should have the love and supervision that my own two children are privileged enough to receive. But not all parents are privileged or wealthy enough to provide it, so when I am the Benevolent Dictator, I will step in. Anyone listening? Anyone?