By Peter Chipanga:
They would set-off as early as 6am for Chitema Primary School, which is about six Kilometres away from home. But not without their sizeable cups nicknamed ‘giants’ which come in handy when receiving porridge as their school is among those implementing a feeding programme.
As a caring mother, Kutesyasoni Jamani, gave her children K100 to buy a sachet of sugar to sweeten the porridge, but for Angululuchire, aged 13 and his nine year old sister, Ndesile, that was enough to watch some episodes at a video show.
It had to take a special operation by Police for Jamani to learn the disturbing news that her children were regulars at Anguyekwaswere Entertainment Centre, where films were shown at a fee.
“I am happy for the operation because it has rescued my children from the dungeon. I could not imagine my children, who I sacrifice a lot, could be doing that. I spend the little money I get from selling zibwente on their school needs only to learn they spend most of the time in video shows,” Jamani, a 49 year old widow, lamented.
An equally concerned Abiti Tikulukuche said she was dumbfounded when she heard that her 11 year old child Mbete Chakutenda, who is in Standard Six, was frequenting a place called Amweagamale Video Showroom.
Dowa Police Victim Support Unit Coordinator, Josephine Binali, revealed that over 15 children were smoked out in a single day after the law enforcers invaded video showrooms around Mponela Trading Centre.
The operation is said to have helped rescue children from abuses such as exposure to pornographic films and disrupting their studies.
Mponela Police spokesperson, Kaitano Lubrino, pointed out that as law enforcers, they are duty bound to protect the rights of children.
“There are actually various abuses that the children could be exposed to right there in video showrooms that is why we should be concerned,” he said.
The station’s Officer in- Charge, Pherson Nthenda, has since called upon communities to be tipping authorities, adding that as Police, they cannot be everywhere.
Another resident, Emily Banda, said the action by the law enforcers over the conduct of the children was welcome.
She asked for more operations of such nature so that the area can remain a peaceful and orderly town.
Social Commentator Joel Chiheni Phiri said the case of Mponela is just a drop in the ocean as there are many children who patronise entertainment places like video showrooms, betting shops, drinking joints despite governing laws that forbid children to be found in such places.
He wondered why children are seen in multitudes loitering in video showrooms and yet the country has plenty of laws and advocates championing the rights of children.
He warned that exposing children to films that are rated for adults could corrupt them morally.
“One might question as to where are the laws? Where are the security and enforcement agents? Where are the NGOs and all the people who say they speak or fight for the rights of children?” he said.
Dowa’s District Youth Officer, Monica Banda, observed that the society has a big role to play to ensure that rights of children are not violated.
“Children must be treated with fairness and justice, like any other person and they have a right to education. Let me therefore commend Police for withdrawing children from the video showrooms.
“Police alone cannot offer the solution so my humble request to other government agencies, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders, is that we work jointly to empower young people with different skills in order to have a developed district,” she said.
She also urged children to keep in mind that education is key to a successful future of any community or country and as such, they are supposed to focus in studies.
Commenting on the same issue, human rights activist, Kate Kujaliwa, said youth organisations and clubs should rise up and stand against the malpractice as it is an impediment to children’s rights.
“Children need to be encouraged to go to school, at times even forced, because there are times when some children don’t know what is good for them, so adults need to guide and help them to understand the importance of going to school,” she said.
She further called upon authorities to punish those that allow children to patronise such places.
“Films are very attractive and entertaining, as such parents, community leaders and all stakeholders need to be concerned with what children are watching,” Kujaliwa, who observed that in video shows nobody cares about the content shown, said.
Education expert Wanangwa Tembo stressed that all stakeholders should be playing their respective roles to make sure children enjoy their right to education for the good of their respective families and the nation at large.
For now, Mponela has shown the way and it is everyone’s hope that the problem will be contained all across the country.