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Screen more than your child's luggage

By Vision Reporter

Added 2nd September 2008 03:00 AM

YOUR teenage daughter is returning home for holidays or going back to school for the new term. Because you want to keep on the right side of the school law and ensure the girl’s safety, you ask her to open her suitcase so you can do a quick audit of what she has in there. And at the very bottom of

YOUR teenage daughter is returning home for holidays or going back to school for the new term. Because you want to keep on the right side of the school law and ensure the girl’s safety, you ask her to open her suitcase so you can do a quick audit of what she has in there. And at the very bottom of

By Joseph Kariuki

YOUR teenage daughter is returning home for holidays or going back to school for the new term. Because you want to keep on the right side of the school law and ensure the girl’s safety, you ask her to open her suitcase so you can do a quick audit of what she has in there. And at the very bottom of the suitcase, wrapped in her nighties, is a vibrator. What do you do? How do you deal with the discovery?

As the holiday sprints to its end, parents and children are collecting what will go into the children’s suitcases as they return to school. The big question is: Should parents check their teenage children’s suitcases as they report back to school? This is a serious question to ponder, especially with the escalating school unrest across the country.

Some parents and even school officials blame the unrest on students’ use of drugs. But the question of how students access drugs in boarding schools where rules are strict, still lingers. Some teachers say most of the drugs find their way into schools when students report back at the beginning of term. This leads us back to the question: Should parents check their children’s suitcases?
One advocate of checking the suitcases is Steven Langa of Family Life International. He says it is mandatory for parents to know what goes on in their children’s lives. “A parent has a right to do that (check suitcases) but it depends on whether the child is behaving responsibly or not. If you are not sure of your child’s moral uprightness, then you have a right to check what he carries,” he says.

“When we take our children to some schools, the students and parents have to sign an agreement with the school and the parent is bound to ensure that the child behaves responsibly,” Langa adds.

Langa has strong support from King’s College Budo headteacher, Patrick Bakka Male, who says it is very important to check the suitcase in case children are carrying illegal gadgets to school.

“It should not only be checked when they are reporting to school but when they go back home for holidays. Parents don’t check their children’s suitcases; that’s why you get a Bishop’s child dressing in provocative things and he doesn’t know.” Bakka Male advises that if a child comes home with a watch worth sh150,000, the parent should find out where he got the money from.
Another teacher who supports checking students’ suitcases is Juliet Kyoshabire, of Trinity College Nabbingo. She claims that there are some gadgets which pose a security threat to the school and should not be encouraged in schools. Kyoshabire cites things like radios, mobile phones, MP4s, among other things, which she says are not friendly for the school environment. “Ideally, parents should check but they don’t. Sometimes we get illegal things in children’s suitcases when they report and the parent is there looking shocked,” Kyoshabire says.

Supporting the need for parents to be more involved in their children’s lives, Agnes Akiror, the MP for Kumi district and a parent of a Senior One pupil at King’s College Budo, says parents should know what their child takes to school.

“We pack together and I look through what they are carrying,” says Akiror, adding that parents should stop blaming schools for the unrests while they don’t know what their children are involved in.

Ruth Matoya, a counselling psychologist, advises that parents have to go slow when dealing with teenage children: “Checking suitcases cannot stop bad behaviour. Parents need to enhance communication with their children to be able to check changes taking place in their children,” Matoya argues.

She adds that parents are the first defence for their children and by the time you check their suitcases it means a parent has lost trust in them. She says if you must check, you have to explain to the child why you are doing it. “If you invade a child’s suitcase, she may feel betrayed and look for other ways of carrying the illegal things to school,” she says.

Matoya says most parents underestimate the intelligence of their children, “they think that children hide the drugs inside the suitcases but most of them put drugs in juice, bread and clothes, making it useless to check the suitcase.

“Sometimes they tell a parent to bring them some things they forgot at home and the parents bring those things, but with drugs stashed inside the paper bags,” she says. Matoya advises parents to cultivate a good relationship with their children to give them a deeper relationship with them.

Although parents and teachers are in support of checking students’ suitcases, to students, the practice is unacceptable.

“I don’t like the idea, it’s invasion of my privacy,” says a Senior Six student at a prominent school in Wakiso, who did not want to be named for fear of being victimised. The student believes that if his parents trust him, then “why should they poke their noses in my suitcase? It’s private!”

But to Daniel Ddiba, it is not that bad: “To a certain extent it is not good,” says Ddiba, a student at the same school. “I don’t like it personally but it is necessary for parents to know what the students are carrying to school.” Ddiba is quick to add, however, that there are things that students have, which parent do not need to see.

A Senior Two pupil at Gayaza says she will feel offended if her parent should ask her to check her suitcases. “That will be intrusion,” she says. But she adds that when students show ‘fishy’ behaviour, parents should check the suitcases.

Another student of Entebbe SS who says that he smokes, says it is futile to check his suitcase. He says most drugs come in smaller quantities which make them easier to be concealed.
“When we go for games or outings, who will check us when wee come back?” he muses.

How should parents approach their children to check the suitcases?

Langa says a parent who is not close to his children needs to create a new relationship with the child first, before asking for a child’s suitcase. “Start a dialogue with your child. The first thing you need to do is to apologise for not being close to the child. Only after getting close can the child accept your checking the suitcase as normal,” Langa says.

The problem today is that most parents do not parent their children, says Langa, adding: “Because of this, they (parents) cannot predict what their children are up to. The school burning is as a result of poor parenting.”

Akiror says parents should make sure that their children are their allies. “When you are open with your kid, it is easy to convince him to pack together. We need to relate more with our children. Parents should have time to talk with the children,” says Akiror.

Budo’s Male says one of the tricks students use to stop parents from checking is to make threats so that you do not check. Male says parents need to create rapport with their children. “Check the property your child has and know when and where he got it from. Parents should also check the rooms of their children, what are the writings on the wall,” Male says.

Langa sums it all up by insisting that children need attention from their parents because: “Negative attention to a child is better than no attention at all.” Besides waiting for the time to check the suitcases, do more - be their friends and talk to them about their discipline and attitude towards education.

Screen more than your child's luggage

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