Living with Guardians…. A Bittersweet Tale by Hazel Gutsa

August 6, 2021
Amplify Girls Voices

Slumber parties, sleepovers, all night parties, weekend gateways, you name it, everything goes; that is the impression I get from my peers who are lucky enough to have their parents living and working overseas, having to be under the care of guardians or siblings. In my case, however coming back home after 10pm would be the end of me, a total death wish, to be precise. My parents have strict rules that I would have to first pick my grave before I dare disrespect them. For them partying all weekend is not even something I could ever contemplate asking permission for. In some other cases it is a completely different story; surely Gogo or Aunty do not have a problem with it, after all what can she do?

Only a small number of children in my neighbourhood live with their parents. The majority are leading carefree lives because they live with guardians without the legal standing to some rules. It’s fairly understandable that circumstances are different but what are the odds of them not falling through the gutters of peer pressure? Grandparents, aunts, uncles, aunts and even cousins are the most common guardians. There are many children who sneak out of these homes to indulge in risky behaviours at night; that is very much easy if one is staying with their Gogo who sleeps at 9pm. There is a distinct difference between the ones staying with parents and the ones staying with guardians. Most children tend to disrespect and disregard relatives’ rules with the “you are not my parent” attitude.

There is also the case of child headed families, whereby the oldest sibling is the head of the house, even as young as 18 years old. And how likely are they to correct their younger siblings? More so, which standpoint will they be correcting them from? What parenting skills does one have at such an age anyway? These houses then become chill spots and hot spots for Vuzu parties, a topic that needs an article of its own. Due to the limited knowledge about decision making, teenagers are a danger to themselves, without parents around anything goes and everything goes wrong. With free funds available, most of these children fall prey to drug and substance abuse. More dangerous is how they might abuse each other in these setups and it might go unnoticed. What is worse is when the parents actually don’t send the money at all or regularly, leading to child prostitution and child labour.

Not all guardians act in good faith. Some abuse their wards in a lot of ways, leaving them scarred for life. They might also use the money being sent by parents for their personal selfish interests. Ask yourself why is your aunt letting you party till the early hours of the morning. Why does she let you go to weekend gateways? What good are you going to be to your parents when you fall pregnant at that party? Some relatives are enjoying the riches from your parents in the diaspora, but they don't want what's best for you. Work hard! Look after yourself.

In a bid to look for greener pastures and give their children a better life, parents have to make some of these hard decisions. Their results range from extremely successful children to total failures. There is no one answer to it all, it is then up to everyone involved to do what is best for the children, and for the society to remember that is takes a village to raise a child!

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