The day we read the heart-rending story about a four-year old boy in Ntinda who was crushed to death by a wayward lorry this week even as we were recovering from the horrific recount of the teenage kidnappings, I found a man beating up a little boy at the Kitante crossing.
For a few seconds I was confused, because the fellow dishing out the violence was the zebra crossing attendant outside Kitante Primary School, and the child was a uniformed pupil making his way across the road. The child had ran irresponsibly across half the road and the attendant had frantically restrained him from going the other half where the lunch hour traffic was uncontrollably zipping past.
The adrenalin and his relief at having saved the boy’s life combined to trigger off a volley of angry slaps into the face of the little fellow. The boy had been in the wrong and certainly deserved sanction or punishment – but not THAT beating; so I wound my window down and lambasted the zebra crossing attendant, who was startled into halting his attack.
But after a few seconds, his adrenalin still boiling, he shouted at the whimpering child, “If you ever do that again, I will BEAT YOU!”
My own adrenalin or whatever other substance causes angry excitement, had risen at the sight of this fellow unleashing adult violence upon a little boy and memories of our own childhood when we got beaten up by similar adults not for reasons of discipline, but to release their own frustrations of life under most repressive circumstances.
I also felt it was not sensible for him to be threatening the child with further violence, yet was still confused because he believed he was doing it for the boy’s own good.
And then I remembered the little boy of Ntinda.
A neighbour who had seen the accident happen recounted it to us tearfully, complete with details of how the little boy’s minders had jumped to safety on seeing the truck hurtling their way, leaving him in its path. His mother, poor lady, had left them just minutes before to return to her domestic duties.
Once again, examples of children being so unfairly treated by adults who should know better but actually DON’T seem to know better.
I run this small private NGO inside my head whose objective is to stop adults in Kampala from exposing their children to danger as they walk around the city. I noticed this many years ago and began a crusade that I hope is helpful but also returns hilarious results.
Our (so far I am the only employee) task is one: whenever we see an adult walking with a child and that child is on the open side of the road, we tell the adult to place the child on the shielded side, and to hold the child’s hand firmly.
We don’t have sidewalks or pavements in most parts of the city, and the majority of us don’t own or operate motor vehicles, so you would be surprised how many lives are mindlessly put at risk in this manner every day.
The adults in question cannot be blamed because it never occurs to them to: a) hold the hand of a child when walking down the road or b) place the child out of harm’s way, on the side that doesn’t have cars being operated by cranky irrational Kampala drivers.
Most of us were probably raised in an environment lacking the danger of motor vehicles, so the peril posed by traffic and city roads is not present in our sub conscience.
But even people with university degrees, who work in so-called ‘big’ companies where there are terms such as ‘Environmental, Health & Safety’ will be found driving their questionable Japanese cars with children unstrapped in the front seats.
So if a lawyer, auditor, banker, doctor can drive around with their child not wearing a seat belt in the vehicle’s most dangerous seat, while talking on a mobile phone, why would any lower-cadre parent with a humble education think of holding their child’s hand as they walk down a busy road engaged in kaboozi with a fellow housegirl/courier/tea-woman?
That’s why a zebra crossing attendant, while saving your child from being run down by a speeding car, can unknowingly cause him brain damage from a few angrily struck blows.