Parent A is the proprietress of the school. On several occasions, the daughter has come to school hungry, wearing unwashed uniforms from the week before.
When other children are eating during the break, she’d be staring at them with longing. The class teacher noticed and started bringing her lunch. The same teacher makes will braid the girl’s hair. The mother, on the other hand, will have a makeup artist come to school and do her makeup mostly on Mondays and Thursdays.
Parents B drop off their two children at the creche as early as 6:30 in the morning. Unbathed, in their nightclothes, still asleep. It got to a point that the proprietress, for the sake of the children, asked them to keep a box of clothes for the children at school. That way, they can bathe and dress there. They gladly did, even added money for food. They usually pick up their children late. One time, they quarrelled and neither of them came for the children. They also brought one child still wearing soiled diapers from the night before.
Parent C is a school owner. One time, when her daughter was leaving for secondary school, the girl wore one uniform for an entire week.
When asked why, she said, “Mummy has packed away all my clothes. This is the only thing I have to wear until I leave for school on Saturday.”
Parent D brought the baby at six months. No food, no change of clothes. Twice, the child has been brought to school with food that’s gone sour. So extra food has to be kept in the school kitchen for children like this.
Shall we talk about Parent E? He’s a busy businessman. His daughter comes to school with a big food flask filled to the brim with rice, beans or noodles, depending on the day.
She’s six years old and is supposed to eat that food until when he comes for her around 7 p.m. The school closes by 5 p.m. and sometimes we keep them till 6:30 p.m. and their parents have to pay a fee for the overtime. Still, this man came to the school angry.
“How can you people close by five or six, when you know that I can’t come and pick her until 7 o’clock?”
Sometimes, he’d say he’s on his way to pick her up and he won’t show up until much later, leaving the girl alone for hours with the school’s gateman.
The school bus picks up Parent F’s children. One day, he called and was fuming that the school bus hadn’t come on time and the school had messed with his schedule. The attending teacher told him that the school was on a mid-term break and this information had been written in his children’s communication books, as well as sent to him via email.
Guess what he did? He still sent the children to school via Uber. Every day of that week, those kids either sat at the security post or inside with any teacher who was in school that day. For a week. When asked why he said he’d not made any alternative arrangements and didn’t have the time.
This list won’t be complete without Parent G. A wealthy man whose wife divorced him. He got custody of the three children and takes out his anger on them. Those children are one reason I wish there was a solid foster care system in this country. They aren’t just neglected (dirty, tattered uniforms, no food or snacks), the children are abused mentally, emotionally and physically.
They’re so terrified of speaking—they flinch if they give the wrong answer in class, and raise their arms as if they’re expecting blows. They’re always the last to be picked up at school.
When the daughter broke down and confided in the school counsellor and he found out, he came to school and issued a strong warning that no one talk to his children.
Parents H are in an abusive relationship at home and their four-year-old son shows it in school. Let’s call him Joseph. He was in the habit of smacking this girl in his class, whom we’ll call Mary. He’d slap her hard, and immediately envelop her in a hug, and begin to apologise. She’d nod and say okay, and then he’d lean back and slap her again. As she’d burst into confused tears, he’d hug her again and say sorry. Very sociopathic behaviour.
Lastly, we have Parents I. The kind we call Money-miss-road; nouveau riche and want everyone to know it. Their children are grossly obese and they won’t stop pumping them full of artificial sugar; these children eat every unhealthy food under the sun, whenever and in whatever quantity they want.
To their parents, it represents wealth, and their children won’t suffer as they did. They also have no discipline whatsoever. You can’t reprimand them, no time-out or corporal punishment, you can’t tell them no.
Any attempt to get them to act right is met with, “You can’t do anything to me. I’ll tell my daddy…I’ll tell my mummy…they pay your salary.”
Bear in mind that none of these parents are up to fifty years of age. They have enviable resumes and social media pages. They’re not poor. Yet, horrible parents!
There’s only so much you can do to cushion the situation for these children. Even if we could report them to social services, what next? With whom will they stay? Relatives who don’t want to be burdened and are looking for free labour? The other parent who’s remarried and can’t be bothered? The grandparents who are old and can’t adequately care for them?
Parents of this generation really need to do better. These stories are culled from personal experience and that of friends and family who are teachers and run crèches. The thing is, as much as these tales are horrifying, these are for children who are able.
Double that horror you feel when you think about how some parents treat children with special needs.
That’s a story for another day