I won’t lie and say I was a good teenager. I slept too much, didn’t do particularly well in school and spent a bit too much time hanging out with friends (or as dad called them, “cronies”) doing nothing really.
Once or twice a holiday I would even jump the fence to go to an all-night party I was expressly forbidden to attend. And the punishment I would suffer through the next day like clockwork, would not dissuade me from doing it again.
So, a teenager behaving badly isn’t anything new to me. Nor should it be for anyone else because, let’s be honest, that’s just what they do. However, the old trope of ‘its just teenage rebellion’, needs to be reexamined; especially in light of this weekend’s events.
Police closed Lebanese Bar and Restaurant, a Kimihurura-based nightspot, on Saturday and arrested the owner because, according to SP Modeste Mbabazi, the Police spokesperson for the City of Kigali, they found scantily dressed underage patrons, drinking booze and smoking shisha.
To quote the police officer, “these were very young girls and boys. We found them smoking shisha, and drinking alcohol, in the nightclub, which is against the law. Some of them were half-naked…. We could not arrest them, like we have arrested the bar operator. These are innocent young children. But we have asked their parents to advise them accordingly”.
I think that the officer hit the nail on the head when he said that the children were ‘innocent’. Not because they were mindless beings without rational thought (which would be the furthest thing from the truth; trust me, they knew exactly what they were doing) but because the real perpetrators of the ‘crime’ are their parents.
Before you lynch me, first hear me out.
I don’t know about teenagers these days but when I was younger I was constantly broke. My only source of income was the pocket money I would get from my family members and, to be honest, it was a pittance.
I could barely buy a sachet of the infamous ‘Black Diamond’ alcohol, never mind a bottle of Primus beer. If I wanted to jump the fence for a night’s partying, I had to do the sort of financial gymnastics that would put a corrupt accountant to shame.
Having to choose between aRwf400 moto ride to dusty Kicukiro (and not having money for a second drink) or trekking for two hours and having the said drink, was a ‘life and death’ decision. I was living below the poverty line and my rebellious streak reflected that poverty.
So, I’m finding it quite bemusing to discover that there are teenagers hanging out in swanky bars and puffing away on exotic Middle-Eastern water pipes. Cigarettes? Yes. Beer? Perhaps. Whiskey and shisha? How is that even possible?
These teenagers aren’t enjoying these ‘delicacies’ for free so the question is, who is paying for all of this? Do these innocents have summer jobs? Do they have trust funds? Are they stealing from their parent’s wallets? Or are they, I believe, simply being given this money from their parents?
No parent wants their children to lack anything, but I don’t think that spoiling them ridiculously is good parenting. I mean, I’ve been out and seen teenagers driving their parent’s cars, drunk out of their minds and behaving recklessly.
A parent cannot be handing over money, hand over fist, to a teen and then complain that they are doing what teens do, which is to act irresponsibly.
Yes, a nightspot proprietor should demand to see a patron’s ID before serving them alcohol and tobacco products. But let us be honest here, if a teen has money burning a hole in their pocket, they will find a way to spend it.
If you cut off their resources, you would have cut them off at the knees. With no pocket money, there is simply no way that they can engage in a lifestyle that could put a salaried civil servant to shame.
So, instead of blaming those who sell booze and tobacco to teenagers perhaps its time we shifted the responsibility to where it actually falls, to their parents. It shouldn’t be a bar owner’s responsibility to manage teenagers, its simply not their job.
The writer is an editor at The New Times Publications.