So today is one of those rare days when the stars align themselves in such as way as to ensure I stay home! My ATM card for some reason is acting up, my car has developed a myriad of issues overnight and won’t start, and my 3 year old son has decided he wants 100% mummy time, shadowing my every move. Thus, I have opted not to fight it and just stay put!

Happy to have an adult around to have adult conversations with, Emma, my househelp (whom I refer to as “Nanny Emma”) decides to give me the latest mucini (gossip) about Mama Nani and mtoto wa Mama so-and-so, along with a running commentary of the entire week’s events at the playground while I was away. Normally, these updates are interrupted by moments of laughter and joy but today’s session left me rather disturbed.

Emma, my nanny, tells me how one of my son’s friends, Lucy, loves playing with him so much that she can run across the road at break-neck speed just to be with him. As I am enquiring about how she is doing and which milestones she has surpassed, Emma says to me,

You know, the other day I had to take Lucy home cause she had been left alone outside, unattended, and it had started raining. Lucy was so scared and just crying by herself by the roadside. When I reached her home, I found her nanny sitting on the couch watching tv (television). So I asked her “mbona una wacha mtoto peke yake akiwa nje? (Why have you left the child outside alone?). The nanny replied ‘Alah! hata sikujua ako nje. Nilimuacha akiwa room yake. Alitoka saa ngapi??” (I didn’t even notice she was outside. I left her in her room. When did she go outside??)

Nanny Emma was very upset as she was giving this story and was even more shocked that this nanny was completely unaware of her employer’s child’s whereabouts, neither did this nanny know that Lucy was capable of letting herself out the door (that should have been locked!)

Perhaps I should mention, this child is about 3 years old…

Emma proceeded to add that she had noticed this nanny spending a lot of time at the main gate conducting some other business, a few hundred meters from her employer’s house, without Lucy. Upon enquiry, she would say that the baby was asleep in the house and that the employer, a single mum, was not about to come home.

During our discussion, my baby sister who had been eavesdropping interjects:

That cute little girl?? I always see her outside by herself. I walk her around the estate and play with her and the other kids. I don’t even know what her nanny looks like. You need to trace the mother!”

Let’s sit back for a moment and analyse the situation. Maybe this nanny has a very uptown employer who realizes the need for the nanny to “zurura” (wander about) and had purchased a babycam to enable her to know when the baby was awake or crying. Highly unlikely, especially given the distance between their home and the nanny’s favorite hangout spot.

Am I overreacting and being a “woman” about this?

Well, given the number of child sexual assault cases I personally have handled, and as a mother, I would have to be very inhumane not to feel the need to make a ‘big deal’ about this.

But God takes care of children” I hear people say.

You can never be too careful”.

Yes this is true and I completely agree that we, as humans, can only do so much to protect our young ones. However, we must strive to do our best within those limitations, and not leave any room for mistakes, accidents or negligence.

In African culture, children are brought up by the community. The community is you, and I. We all play a role in protecting each other, male or female, young or old, black or white. One should not remain quiet in such situations. It is better to speak up, break through the silence, than to remain mute and regret that decision later, possibly for a lifetime.

Potential dangers to the child include:

  • Bullying
  • Abduction
  • Sexual assault
  • Physical abuse by those within the vicinity eg neighbors, security guards
  • Car accidents
  • Falling from a height
  • Choking (foreign bodies)
  • Drowning
  • Electrocution
  • Death from any of the above.

These are scenarios I have seen in my career and are not fictional. Remember, there are predators amongst us and most of them are people we least expect to be.

What did I do about this?

I traced the mother’s contacts, sent her a text message introducing myself, apologizing for invading her privacy, and then explained my concern for the wellbeing of her baby, and left it at that.

What shall I continue to do?

Observe and note if this behavior changes. It is possible that the nanny just needed to be taught right from wrong when handling a child. Many times, mothers take some knowledge for granted and assume it is common sense. However, if this behavior continues, which is unlikely, try again.

At my workplace, if I encounter a child who seems to be in danger due to negligence, Social Services Department is called upon to intervene. Several children have been saved by community policing, where neighbors have reported matters directly to the police.

Let’s be vigilant about protecting each other and our vulnerable children. Speak up, end the silence, save a life.

*names have been changed to protect confidentiality*