Whose children are these?

Last month, I was privileged to travel to Madrid, Spain to cover the Conference of Parties (COP25) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

These conferences are often never short of protests and controversy—well it is expected at such events where people try to push their agenda and ensure that their agenda is top on the list.

In the first week of the conference, there was a Climate Change protest march aimed at forcing world leaders to act with urgency on the climate crisis and the need for a more ambitious climate change policy. It was estimated that over 500 000 people took part in the march.

Coming from Malawi, I was shocked to see children as young as a year-old among the protesters while some parents were pushing baby strollers as they carried placards.

Just last week, teachers across the country, commenced their industrial sit-in aimed at forcing government to pay them their December salaries. These are mostly teachers who were removed from the payroll because they did not submit their National Identity cards.

What started as a peaceful sit-in turned ugly days later when learners decided to protest against not learning. The learners, marched in the city and district streets. Along the way, they smashed vehicles, damaged property and pelted stones at passers-by.

Going through Social Media, one could see how shocked Malawians were at this development. Many didn’t believe that young school children are capable of causing such havoc.

Many were actually asking what has become of Malawi and what sort of a generation is the country raising?

Demonstrations in Malawi have become synonymous with violence. Examples are many. Adults have not been a good example to the young children when it comes to demonstrations.

These pupils were doing exactly what adults have taught them to do when demonstrating. These are the same children adults tell to remain indoors because there are demonstrations; hence there will be violence. What such messaging has done to them is instill in them a culture that there cannot be demonstrations without violence, breaking people’s property and being a nuisance.

I am a staunch supporter of people’s right to demonstrate, but I abhor violence—whether perpetrated by the protesters or the law enforcers. It is possible to hold demonstrations without damaging property, and looting shops. You, the adult Malawian, can teach these young children, not by telling them, but by showing them how it should be done.

If you ask whose children are these? I dare say, these are your children, the ones you taught violence and vulgarity putting to practice what you, the master teacher, taught them. This has to stop. Let’s put an end to such unruly behaviour by children before they turn out to be dangerous thugs.

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