Who is to blame for the housemaids’ misconduct?

Can’t we do without house help? That was the question many people asked themselves last week after the media reported the killing of three children in cold blood by their family’s domestic worker in Rubavu District.

Can’t we do without house help? That was the question many people asked themselves last week after the media reported the killing of three children in cold blood by their family’s domestic worker in Rubavu District.

Even more tragic was the report that the suspected killer admitted to first defiling one of his victims. Previously, we had heard stories of housemaids stealing property and kidnapping children. But no one would imagine killing such a number of children.

Many jobless youth, both male and female, are desperate to work and as a result, many people have someone working at their homes, doing domestic tasks.

Some homes have even two or three young people attending to the different chores-their employer could otherwise have to do if they hadn’t any house help.

The fact is that we can’t do without house helps; especially in this era of the career woman.

They are important people in our homes whose role we can’t underestimate. But then, it’s quite interesting that most of us do not mind give them fair treatment.

When you listen to the stories most domestic workers tell, they are full of misery.

It is not a glamorous job. Their remit includes cleaning up things, cooking, taking children to school, sleeping after everybody else has slept and waking up before every body.

Some sleep in kitchens; eat when their bosses have eaten, while others are not paid at all after the boss has deducted funds for glasses or plates broken during the course of the previous month.

In such a situation, and while the average monthly wage for a maid is about Rwf5000, there is bound to be great discontent. Nevertheless, they go about their jobs without openly complain.

None of these reasons can justify murder, kidnap or theft, but this could be the unintended effect of being disgruntled. Once discontent accumulates, it becomes disastrous.

The maid literally maintains your health, takes care of your children, and helps you cut expenses because you would spend a lot more eating out, in laundry or taking your children to day care centres. But still you fail to increase his or salary by a few zeros.

What we should know is that after maids have lived with you for long, they realise that we are not any different, we are like them, there is nothing special that gives ‘us’ the bosses the right to mistreat them and deprive them-your money or qualifications not withstanding.

Now that our children are falling prey to the maids, and we can’t do without them, its time to consider a few available options: First start digging deeper into the background of the people we employ in our homes.

Indeed some do not have the required aptitudes to work in our homes.

Let us try to create a friendly relationship instead of the ‘master-servant’ relationship. These people are not tools.

It was just misfortune that has condemned them to their positions. We should as much as possible fully integrate them as members of our families.

This will partly minimise discontent, although it may compromise loyalty-to the boss.

Once ones’ background is not suspect, I believe it would be a little harder for a house help who is treated fairly, to conceive criminal tendencies.

Two, police can investigate cases of child kidnapping and murders by maids, in order to find out the root causes.

Apart from that, educate children to be cautious and parents should closely watch out. Surely, there are maids who are there to commit any of those crimes listed above.

jtasamba@gmail.com

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