‘Dead Beat Kenya’ teaching Kenya’s modern day fathers, mothers to raise families

October 12, 2014

Kenya’s patriarchal society considers men as the family’s primary breadwinner so they are excused, even by law, from any child-rearing duties despite the country enacting a new constitution slightly over four years ago.Mothers, on the other hand, are regarded as the main caregivers to their children.But the times have changed, with women getting more opportunities to leave their homes and join the workforce.Sadly, working mothers have to juggle work and domestic responsibilities while the role of most fathers has remained unchanged.Many Kenyan fathers believe that it is enough to be physically present around their children. They don’t realise how important their role is in shaping a child’s character by getting involved,” said Pamela Loina Laikera, mother of one and procurement expert with Government of Kenya.“Every morning I see fathers drop their children at school, but they are busy checking their phones and tablets,”she said.“They don’t even look into their children’s eyes when parting, let alone say something encouraging.”She has seen this happen countless times,but it still alarms her. Pamela Loina Laikera says her experience shows that the most critical period in character building is between infancy and 5 years.In what she has witnessed in her country Kenya,many fathers miss the opportunity because they think that being with their young children is a waste of time.

According to Tanzania’s Citizen newspaper “Single in the city” writer Christine Chacha, a close blud,“Fathering knows no break.If you only begin when your children are older than 10, it’s too late.Pre-teen is a rough period that children must struggle through,which is why fathers must build a solid foundation with their children,”Christine Chacha said.The Facebook page “Dead Beat Kenya” has now taken private parental disputes public.Founded last month by a bloke known as Jackson Njeru primarily to expose those who have refused to care for their children targets both fathers and mothers apparently to cater for those who cannot afford hefty court process. The term ‘deadbeat’ is used to refer to a man unable to pay his bills or a bloke of low financial standing.It can also mean a bloke who sires a child and intentionally refuses to support for the upkeep of his child, even when he has the capacity to do so. In my opinion, the Facebook page has taken baby steps in spreading the word about the importance of father and mother figures.Christine Chacha, a close female friend who has used her column in the past to pen articles about irresponsible men in Tanzania, believes that regardless of their social,education and economic backgrounds, fathers and mothers deal with more or less the same problems when it comes to parenting issues.In her opinion, it is not an easy battle to win because “Dead Beat Kenya” is fighting against ignorance that is spread across the East African region.

Me thinks that its common view in African societies that father as breadwinner has been rooted for so long that it has become a social norm. The posts on ‘Dead Beat Kenya’ page has seen irresponsible mothers and fathers talk of their experiences interacting with their children. During one such post, a senior company executive in Kenya who was said to have neglected a 11 year-old daughter was exposed and his contact details published online. Through a contact, your blogger was able to directly seek her first hand opinion. The woman who exposed her, asked the father if he ever called his daughter even a single day just to tell her that he missed her. “He said he never did. So I asked him to call her that moment I published his details. It’s not easy. When the daughter picked up the phone, her answer was hostile like ‘Why did you buzz?’Just because mom exposed you on Dead Beat doesn’t mean you’ll change. The woman informed your blogger that it took several days for the Kenyan executive to begin a healthy conversation with her and daughter. The words “I called you because I miss you and want to know how you have been doing today” seemed to be so hard to say, she added while I sought her opinion. In an age when communication is easy and accessible for many people, children are still not communicating with their parents.

A study conducted in Kenya three years ago revealed that children are left alone for about 18 hours a day as both parents are working outside of the home and those lucky are left with house-helps. Your blogger was informed that in Kenya, when parents return from work, they are too tired to perform their proper parenting duties. In cities like Nairobi and Mombasa both which I’ve had a chance to visit in the past, many skip dinner at the table and breakfast in the morning, and their worsening traffic adds even more separation hours between parents and their children. In the past, Kenyan fathers and mothers were more distant from their children and any influence they exerted was more to do with “tough love.” But in today’s Kenya, fathers have different challenges and must be more versatile as a parent. The single parent who exposed the company executive told me she is a “companion and friend” to her daughter. My daughter talk to me about everything without reservation. I encourage her to do so by being accessible whenever she need me. According to Pamela Loin Laikera, Kenyan children are stealing the headlines as accomplices to crimes like drug dealing, drug use, victims of sexual violence and perpetrators of violence against innocent civilians. She weighed in on the rise of incident involving young people in her country, especially when it comes to sex.It is not however surprising that about 35 percent of kids in aged below 15 have watched the pornographic materials at home or in cyber cafes and in Kenya we are living in a culture of ignorance added Laikera.

Parents work hard to get their children gadgets and supply their needs but they are not involved in supervising how their children use them,” said Pamela Laikera.There is no doubt “Dead Beat Kenya” has exposed how Kenyan children are living in a state where they have fathers and mothers physically, but not emotionally. But the issue of fathering and parenting generally is not seen as a sexy topic in Kenya like politics or corruption scandals that have in the past involved who is who in the society.That’s the reason Kenya’s mainstream media never gives it any attention. However, social media has altered all that. “But these issues are actually the most relevant to each and every family in Kenya.”The page has so far exposed business men and women, media personalities, politicians among them and have seen their mobile phone numbers, images, their identification documents, hospital bills and their full names as well as their brief bios.Time has come for Kenyan men to un-zip when its only necessary….LOL!

Contador Harrison