Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Crime and punishment

Kenya, near Makuyu, 60km from Nairobi

Having no children of my own puts me in a perfect position, I think, to pass judgement on how to raise children correctly and, more importantly, to objectively point out where parents are going wrong in their own efforts at parenting.  This constructive and impartial criticism is, I feel, a valuable service; particularly for new parents.  It is, after all, important to listen to outside views if you want to take parenting at all seriously.

I’m joking!  You can stop sharpening the rusks into daggers and emptying the rattle into an IED.  Dora the Explorer need not switch careers into Dora the Assassin.  Worry not, I’m the last person you’ll ever hear trotting out the limp cliché ‘everyone’s opinion is valid’, the motto on the flag of the fictional Nation of Cretin.  In the Nation of Cretin everyone’s opinion is valid, no matter how ill informed, illogical, or evidence free the opinion may be.  One result, among many, is that creationism is taught on the same science syllabus as evolution. It’s a good job the Nation of Cretin is virtually every nation on earth a fictional place, otherwise I fear I might start receiving death threats from its citizens – the cretinites.  Having said that, I am tempted to post that first paragraph onto Mumsnet, perhaps supplemented with a five point parenting plan. I think receiving a death threat in crayon and alphabet spaghetti would be rather fun.

So, having established my non-credentials in the raising of children I’d still like to share with you what, in my non-credible opinion, is the most effective (and funniest) piece of child discipline I’ve ever seen.  Little Daniel is five years old, and he has a sweet tooth. That’s him in the picture below, cute huh? He was caught with a pocket full of sugar that he’d pilfered from the kitchen, and was sitting in a dark corner licking it off his fingers.  I thought this, in itself, was pretty funny, but the punishment he received from Zach (Orphanage Manager whom Helen childishly, although accurately, keeps accusing me of having a bro-mance with), was even funnier.  Little Daniel was forced to wear a sign around his neck  and carry a cup of sugar around the compound before having to stand on the stage in the dining room with a torch played onto the sign.  He was embarrassed, he was teary, and he was ridiculed by his peers.  He’ll get over all these things.  He stole - that’s bad news even if it was just sugar.  Hopefully he won’t do it again, and therefore the punishment fitted the crime.  Just my opinion.

The sign reads: This is my story… My name is Daniel.  I love sweet things and I am a thief.  Like today I stole sugar (also maize and beans) in the kitchen.  You better watch out, I might come after you. 

<We have a winner! From the veritable deluge of two whole entries for the ‘dunny debate’ in a previous post it is after much careful consideration that the plaudits go to Matt, despite strong competition from Rhi.  I urge you to read both comments, but it was Matt’s invention of new African proverbs that snaffled him first place.  Matt (and I think I know which Matt this is) – you are a scholar and a gentleman, and we miss you and R very much. By way of a prize here is a proverb just for you:  Sometimes the gloss of friendship presents itself as Matt. >     


  1. When I started reading this had a moment of panic thought you might start giving examples of parenting that you had experienced!!! I have been waiting for the knock on the door for ages - Richard was forever threatning to phone Childline - lucky I put the that lock on the phone. You realise in this country if we did the same to a child the castigation that would ensue would be enough to topple a government - but I understand, he will get over this and hopefully learn that to steal is not the way especially when what he has stolen is not always able to be replaced. Love you and loving this blog, still think 5000 is reachable - come on people get following.

  2. Hi there,

    My wife and I spent almost two years working with Geoff and Edith at Watoto wa Baraka and we had a great laugh seeing this story. So glad to hear that Zach is still there. He is an outstanding individual.


  3. Hi Aaron, thanks for your comment, lovely to hear from a fellow WWB'er. Two years! That's some commitment - you clearly made a difference as it's a really impressive concern.

    Totally agree about Zach - great bloke.

    Hope you keep reading - all the blogs up to and including Opt In are about our time at WWB.

    Thanks again for your comment and interest, with sunny best wishes from Dar es Salaam.