Fri | Aug 17, 2018

Garth Rattray | Teach parenthood at school

Published:Monday | October 16, 2017 | 12:00 AM

A large number of people saw the viral video of an enraged mother, clad only in panties, mercilessly beating her pubescent daughter with the broad side of a machete while unleashing volleys of curse words and repeating, "Mi tyad ah unnu!" It was one of the scariest videos I have ever witnessed.

The extended assault ended when the little girl escaped, bawling and running away from the onslaught. Her departure was accentuated by a barrage of 'bad' words from her seething parent. The bare and muddy ground, strewn with several objects, the criss-crossing clothes lines with various garments and undergarments, the wooden domiciles and stripping paint testify to the poverty in which they live.

I understand that the little girl asserted that her mother loves her and that it was the first time that she had lost it. The child denied any bruises from the vicious beating and stated that her mother was one of the best moms in the world, but was frustrated with the circumstances of her life and difficulty taking care of her children. She wants to go back home. The only other human voice heard was her sister, who agreed with, and encouraged, the 'disciplining' and never pleaded for her.

In other words, the victim and her sister were not appalled by their mother's actions. They saw it as discipline from their mother, who had reached her wits' end. And, ostensibly, if this had not been publicised and caused such intense national indignation, those children might discipline their children similarly.




Many have said that the mother is also a victim of poverty, of circumstance of being overwhelmed, of being a single parent, of perhaps a similar upbringing, and of frustration at being unable to control her wayward child. Although there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for what she did, I also believe that she is a victim of a society that failed her and her ilk.

Child abuse takes many forms. Speaking gruffly and demeaning children is child abuse. I've witnessed a mother shouting, "Mi say yuh fi come now!" and when I looked, I saw a little two- or three-year-old in tow. I've even heard a mother threaten a toddler crying for ice cream by shouting, "Yuh waaan mi thump yuh inna yuh mout, bwoy?!" Once, I saw a mother snatch a knife from her toddler and admonish him by screaming, "Yuh waan mi wipe dis craas yuh neck, bwoy?!" I don't know if my protestations did any good - she was steeped in bad parenting habits.

It's in our culture to carry out corporal punishment on children. It was widely practised in homes and in many schools - even as far as high schools. In the distant past, teachers would even beat children for making math and English language errors. Tales were told of high-school disciplinarians using canes and paddles to punish children.

I have never agreed with corporal punishment but, to this very day, many people believe that it is the only way to get children to behave and to learn from their mistakes.

Children have no choice about the circumstances of their birth. They can't choose their mother or father. Parenthood is a privilege, not a burden and certainly not a curse. All the crime and murders are as a result of poor parenting. The way that children are raised determine whether or not we have war or peace.

Given the aggression, lawlessness, violence and the steadily deteriorating discipline and morality throughout our society, several government ministries should come together and formulate a mandatory subject called 'parenthood' in primary and secondary schools. It should not be about biology or sex education; it should teach how to be a good mother and a good father and cover the various aspects of and techniques in parenting and how it is linked to nation building.

Additionally, every pregnant woman should be handed incremental literature covering parenthood during her antenatal visits. And when parents receive their children's health passports, they should be accompanied by a summation of the dos and don'ts of parenting.

We need to stop talking and do something about poor parenting. The Government needs to utilise the schools, social media, and the print and the electronic media to educate everyone on how to raise children.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to