Whenever it gets dark and children are not yet back home, parents get nervous with a thousand questions running in their minds about their children’s safety. One measure some parents take to ensure their children do not lose track of their education journey is imposing curfews.
A curfew is an order or ordinance that prohibits people of a certain age (usually children still in school under 18) from being in public or outside their homes during certain hours, such as beyond 10:00pm. Many teenagers, however, regard curfews as an encroachment on their space, limiting them on how they are supposed to lead their lives. Education Times digs deep into the merits and demerits of this ‘home-grown’ measure.
“I have grown up in a family where it is a must to be home before 7:00pm on schooling days. However, for weekends apart from going to church, I am not allowed to go anywhere unless we are visiting as a family. Sometimes it is heart-breaking that I am always missing out on evening parties and functions, which occasionally makes my friends make fun of me that I am treated like a child,” says Mercy Teta, an 18-year-old student.
Teta adds that though she feels very restricted at times, she knows there is a good reason why her parents do so.
“I believe their intention is to protect me from trouble, especially the fact that I am a girl who is prone to dangers like rape that comes with other problems like early pregnancies and HIV/AIDS,” she says.
Teta urges fellow students, teenagers and youth to put up with curfew patiently, saying life has much to offer for those who wait.
James Bigirimana, a teacher at Groupe Scholaire Nyagasozi, Nyanza District, says curfews are very essential since they enable children reach home in time, hence protecting them from dangers that come with night life outside home that involves drinking, smoking and watching pornography, among other undesirable behaviour.
“When children reach home early, this gives their parents peace of mind rather than worrying about what could be happening to them in those weird hours,” he says.
Bigirimana explains that curfews help children to be objective in life. Any child with a goal will know that he has to be home early, do homework and assist with some home chores rather than just wasting time on useless issues.
“Parents cannot control their children when they are away. They take time to advise them on the importance of being home in time, and if they break the curfew rules, they should be punished so that they do not go astray. If children keep arriving home late but are never punished, they will make it a habit to always come home late. Punishments should be given as a deterrent whenever children reach home late without any serious reason,” he says.
Bigirimana, however, advises parents to also accord a little freedom to their children.
“If it’s time to play, they should do so since they are also human beings that have a right to play, interact and much more. All they need is to be guided on what exactly to do,” he says.
For Jackline Iribagizi, a counsellor at Martyrs Secondary School - Remera, Kigali, giving curfews to children teaches them to be obedient to rules. She says whenever rules are given, then it’s the responsibility of the child to follow them, adding that every family sets rules and regulations to be followed. So, the earlier a child reaches home, she says, the more the time for interaction with family members. This keeps the family bonded.
“Every home should have a timetable of what to do, when and how, and this should include the time children are supposed to be home. If a child wastes themselves with bad groups and they are taken to prison may be because of drug abuse, it is the parents who suffer more trying to get their child cleared. So, when a child breaks these curfew rules they should be brought to book,” Iribagizi adds.
Are curfews important in schools as well?
John Rwema, the headmaster ESSA Nyarugunga Secondary School, Kigali, explains that curfews are important at school since they help students to be in class early and prepare for lessons. If a student reaches class late, it is very hard for them to catch up with what the teacher has been teaching, which may lead to poor grades, he says.
Rwema, nevertheless, says if students are given too much freedom to come to school at anytime they wish then that ceases to be a school because every school has rules and regulations that govern it and in case those curfews are broken, then punishments should be administered.
“Students always have freedom in their free time; they can access the computer lab, join different house clubs for different activities which help them relax a little bit before resuming normal classes. So, adhering to these curfews, even at school, shouldn’t be a problem,” he says.
Rwema advises parents to supervise their children while at home to make sure that they finish everything they have to do in time since this would enable them sleep in time and rise early for classes.
“When parents supervise their children, it is easy to inculcate in them the culture of accepting to be corrected and guided. In the long-run, even enforcing curfew regulations becomes easy since the kids are royal to their caring parents,” he says.
What should parents base on to form curfews?
Rwema says before parents decide on the time children are supposed to be home, they should first share their experiences, explaining the dangers of being out late, so that children appreciate the value of the curfews.
“Different age groups should have different curfews. For example, a primary school child should be expected to be home immediately after school, and they should even be picked from school by their parents or school buses to ensure that they are home safely and in time,” he says.
Rwema adds that, secondary school students, on the other hand, should be given some freedom since sometimes they have discussions but should be supervised at all costs.
“University students should be accorded some bigger degree of freedom. Much as they are not adults fully, they should be able to update their parents of what they are doing and where they are at all times. It’s necessary to give them this benefit because they are at a time where they are about to leave their homes to face the world on their own. So, letting them be a little more in charge of their lives prepares them for life after school,” he explains.
Parents express their views
Peter Kwizera, a resident of Kanombe, Kigali, notes that most times teenagers want to be independent, yet they still need to be disciplined by their parents. He says many creepy activities happen at night, and he would not want to worry whether his child is involved in an accident or is in a prison cell for engaging in unlawful behavior under the cover of night.
“Curfews help youth learn good cultures, be accountable and thoughtful of the people around them, as well as learn the importance of being in different places on time. It is a common courtesy to know when to expect a teenager home; so the more parents insist on curfews, the less crime youth will be involved in,” he adds.
Vanessa Kembabazi, a mother of two, acknowledges that it is really hard to supervise children, especially teenagers, but the most important thing is to sit them down and counsel them about all the risks that come with staying out late.
“If you talk to your children as friends, they will listen, but if you are tough on them chances are high that they will just do the opposite as they feel hurt by you being too strict on them.”
She adds that children are also human and cannot just take the curfews without asking questions.
“Curfews are good but if there is a great connection between parents and their children, it is a lot easier for them to be home in time because they will fear to hurt their parents. However, if there is completely no friendship between parents and children, they will not mind coming home despite the curfew in place,” says Kembabazi.
Philippe Nsengiyumva, businessman
However much students and children think that their freedom is being encroached on, curfews are for their own good since they help them reach home safely. Curfews help parents not to worry about the so many dangers that could happen to their children late in the night.
Jane Umutoni, a student at St. Paul University Kigali
I support the idea of curfews since they nurture a sense of responsibility in the children. This helps them as they grow as they are able to understand exactly where they are supposed to be and what to do at a specific time.
Albert Clement Kwizera, graduate
For primary school children, curfews are good because they are still young and need to be guided unlike the secondary school students, especially those above 18, that need some freedom since they have to do revision, research and discussions after their classes.
Eric Niyomugabo, resident of Kimisagara, Kigali
Curfews are a good idea, especially for girls, because it is safer for them to be home than hanging out late with potential thieves and conmen who could endanger their lives.