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Stop using children as domestic help

Almost every few months, videos trend of domestic helps being maltreated. The latest is that of a child who doesn’t look older than nine, beaten…

Almost every few months, videos trend of domestic helps being maltreated. The latest is that of a child who doesn’t look older than nine, beaten so terribly she has scars all over her body and her eyes are almost swollen shut. Her crime? She accidentally dropped a baby she was carrying.

Apart from the cruelty of beating a child so badly, who employs a baby to look after another baby? How do you entrust your baby whom you supposedly love to a child who can barely look after her own self? What is wrong with people? You think that children of the poor are any less children for being poor?

That’s how one woman (and it’s almost always women, sadly) had a girl (again this girl couldn’t have been more than eight years old) running behind the woman’s own children (one of whom was an older boy) to keep them quiet during mass while madam crossed her legs and relaxed.

Whenever her children got too noisy, she turned her anger on her young domestic help for failing to keep them quiet. When her son wanted water and went to his mother, she sent him to the house help who had a water bottle (she most likely wasn’t allowed to sip from it because not once did she, despite the heat, have a drink).

To my shock, not only did the little girl open the water bottle for this boy older than she, she also served him the water, holding the bottle to his mouth until he was done. It was all I could do not to say anything to the silly mother.

Parenting is hard. Running after children, especially unruly ones is hard. Why would anyone put that burden on a child who’s barely out of diapers? What you, an adult cannot do without help, you expect a child to execute flawlessly. So much so that you punish them for every little ‘failure’?

It doesn’t make sense to put your children in the hands of children too. It’s not ethical and it isn’t safe. A child doesn’t have the strength (physical and emotional) to parent. You are putting your children at risk. Accidents will happen – babies will be dropped and the consequences can be fatal. Is that a risk, even in your selfish wickedness you want to take?

Furthermore, it doesn’t make sense to treat those who look after your children poorly. Years ago in Enugu, a domestic help took her revenge on a wicked employer who wouldn’t let her rest for as long as the baby was awake, and found chores to fill her days while the baby slept. Having had enough, the domestic help put the baby in her care in a carton box and ran away while her madam was at work. For hours – from the period the madam left for work to when she came back in the evening- this infant was alone in the house. Not fed. Not changed. I can’t recall if the baby lived or died.

We have heard stories of fed-up domestics beating the infants in their care once the employees are away. Babies are innocent and should never be harmed, but when you oppress folks long enough, they will find ways of retaliating.

I hope the story of the little girl beaten for dropping for a baby ends well for the girl. I hope someone takes her in and gives her a normal childhood. The only babies she should be carrying at her age are dolls. If you need help, employ an adult and pay that adult well. If you can’t, then do it yourself. It won’t kill you. What you must not do is use child labour, and almost kill someone else’s pikin in the process.

What we, as a society, must do is advocate for the child labour laws to be adhered to. And where they are broken, especially in cases where the children are maltreated, their employers must face the full wrath of the law. Let that serve as a deterrent from employing underage children, and especially from treating them poorly.

By the way, I hear the employers of the little girl have been found, and some claim they too will receive a dose of their own medicine (serious beating) and will be taken to court for justice to be served.


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