Diaspora, Teenagers and Harare Flats

THE mass exodus of Zimbabweans flocking to other countries in the region and overseas has no doubt dealt a negative blow to some families.

Families have been forced to live apart, with children living with grandparents while their parents work abroad to earn money. The social fabric of Zimbabwe has, no doubt, been ripped apart.

Grandparents have been overburdened with such a responsibility, which in some instances, has had negative results.

For those that do not have grandparents, children are left in the custody of relatives and friends and some children have been sexually abused by the very people who are supposed to protect them.

I have also heard so many stories of teenagers who were left on their own renting apartments as parents moved abroad in search of greener pastures.

But the greener pastures have become so thorny that the parents now ponder whether they made the correct decision to move so far away in search of fortune.

I personally know of one teenager who turned their family home literally into a bar and brothel as she spent her mother’s hard- earned British pounds on various men.

She is believed to have bought one of her boyfriends a car. Her mother left for the United Kingdom many years ago and without papers to legalise her stay there, she cannot come back to Zimbabwe and wallow in poverty.

Her two school-going siblings watched their sister as she degenerated into a drunk and hardly two years later, she fell pregnant and gave birth to twins.

The young girl could not even tell who was responsible as various men kept jumping in and out of her bed when she was drunk.

Her 10-year-old younger sister was almost raped by one of the men that frequented the house.

I also learnt of yet another very sad story about a 12-year-old schoolgirl who screamed at her mother on the phone, telling her that she was fed up of the presents she sent her regularly.

The schoolgirl wanted her mother to come back because she missed her badly. But what would happen to the child’s education if she decided to return home?

That would signal the end of her education at a local private school and she would most probably have to head for the village.

It is every parent’s desire to ensure that their children get the best of education so that they can lead a much better life than they have had.

But given the psychological problems these children undergo when their biological parents leave for the Diaspora, should money- making take precedence over their emotional needs?

This is debatable.

Recently there was a press report about young girls who assisted their colleague deliver a baby which they later burnt at a float in the Avondale area of Harare.

There was so much condemnation of these girls, as having committed a very serious offence.

I heard a certain woman say: “Those girls should be jailed for murder. They are a bad influence on our society . . . ”

You see, society loves condemning when wrong is committed but never does it take time to critically analyse situations in order to come up with a more informed conclusion.

I totally do not condone what these girls did but there has to be a reason that drove these children to destroy an innocent soul.

But why did the pregnant girl decide on such a plan to conceal the existence of this baby? And what of the man involved? What role did he play?

Last week I bumped into a relative of the alleged offender who is said to have been left in her father’s custody together with her younger sibling when their mother left for the Diaspora.

But a few years later, the girls found themselves alone as their father left for live with his own mother.

The mother left for the Diaspora with the good intentions of working and raising money for her children’s school fees, but because these children lacked guidance and control, they found themselves in a mess.

“This woman went overseas in the late 90s and frankly speaking those children should not be blamed because there was a serious lack of parental supervision and control. They were hardly teenagers when their mother left so what did you expect from children living on their own?

For many African parents, raising children in the Diaspora is a very daunting and challenging task.

The reasons are many, including the culture of the liberal society, which gives enormous powers to the child.

Torn between two cultures, African parents are therefore in a dilemma as to where to raise their children.

A few years ago, I was told of a story during one of my visits to England about a Zimbabwean couple that was almost arrested when they punished their daughter who they had found being intimate with a Jamaican boy.

Kay Abdullah, a Zimbabwean living in Luton, said: “The parents manhandled the boy and their daughter. They made a report and the case turned against them. Who in their normal senses would allow a daughter to do that in their own homes? That is unheard of in Africa.”

According to Nigerian Village Square, an Internet website, conditions which give children unlimited powers and freedom undermine parental control and guidance.

It is also detrimental to family cohesion and the mental growth and moral development of the child and makes parenting more challenging for African parents.

“Consequently, some of them have joined gangs, started doing drugs, stealing and killing, engaging in sexual precocity. Rising teenage pregnancy, prostitution, cutting classes or dropping out of school and other self-destructive behaviours have become ‘normal’ to them.

If one may ask, are African children raised in traditional African societies better behaved than the ones raised in Diaspora?

The answer to these questions would vary from case to case but the general consensus is that because of environmental factors African children raised in the Diaspora often display behaviours that, under normal circumstances, would not be tolerated or accepted in a traditional African society.”

These are some of the major reasons why Zimbabweans prefer the local education system that emphasises good discipline and behaviour.

But this can only be possible with the assistance of parents who are the primary shapers and moulders of a child’s character.

The Village website says, because of the heavy economic burden piling on parents, many of them have multiple jobs that allow them little or no time to fully undertake parental reponsibilty.

“But in a more relaxed and “less materialistic/competitive” and community-oriented traditional African society, the wife is often at home with the children. More importantly, in African societies it “takes a whole community to raise a child” — the neighbour, uncle, cousin, niece, nephew or even a stranger assists in raising a child in the absence of the biological parents.

Obviously, this is not possible in the Diaspora!
However, parents in Diaspora have had their children abused back home by that very same community that has been empowered to be in loco parentis.

The term in loco parentis, is a Latin term for “in the place of a parent” or “instead of a parent,” refers to the legal responsibility of a person or organisation to take on some of the functions and responsibilities of a parent.

“I know of one single mother who left her daughter in the custody of her brother but the child stopped going to college three years ago and she now loiters around Glen Norah hanging out with men who are notorious for stealing. Do you think her mother knows this is what is happening to her? I doubt that very much.

“People do not care anymore about such children and yet they will be milking these people of their hard-earned US dollars and British pounds.”

Then there is a case I personally handled when I was working for a local NGO where a brother and sister who were left at their family home while parents went to South Africa in search of better opportunities, fell in love which resulted in pregnancy. What do you do? Where was the community at large when all this was happening?

The department of social welfare is no longer effective in dealing with such cases and this has left many children vulnerable to abuse.

People just don’t care anymore about the child next door and this is how the street children syndrome has blown out of proportion.

Tragically though, some fathers who sired these children are purportedly responsible citizens of this country holding very high positions in industry, commerce and civil service.

The question is who will protect and defend the rights of these children? The flight to the Diaspora has definitely ripped families apart, with parents in some instances parting when faced with such a predicament. – newsdzezimbabwe