I’m usually very quick-witted and on my toes but there was this once when I still kick myself for not getting down the number plate of the car this man drove. Let me start from the top. I was driving home one late afternoon and there is this one part in my neighbourhood that leads to a slum area. Every evening I see streams of kids walking home, as there is a city council primary just opposite this road, when I saw a BMW parked on the side and two girls who must have been probably in their early teens, giggling away and reaching out for money from the man through his car window.
I slowed my car down to go over the bumps outside the school and my instinct told me straight away that the man was up to no good because he kept looking into his rearview and side view mirrors to see if anyone was watching. I parked my car on one side and got out yelling at the man. I actually swore at him and had he been doing something very innocent, he would have come out of his car and put me in place and told me to mind my business, but as predicted, he got scared, abused me and sped off before I could pick a rock and throw at his car or have the mind to take down his car number plate.
I asked the girls what was going on, and one was visibly shaken and looked scared but the other one, who was confidently laughing and chatting with the man and appeared to be taking money from him, told me that he was just giving them money to go for a drive in his posh car. My heart wrenched at this. All I could do was request them not to do this again.
I fretted for the girls all night as I tossed and turned, knowing that they weren’t the only ones ever to have been exposed or subjected to such exploitation. What if they had gotten into the car? It was very obvious that the man’s intent was nefarious and what if one of the girls got pregnant? They didn’t even look 15 for goodness sake!
I’m not sure how we are to deal with this. Schools talk about sex education in the most coy manner to kids but don’t tell them anything outside of the biological facts like not accepting to go off with men, or even women, for money. How do we talk to kids without scaring them yet putting it firmly in their heads that this is not right?
Valentine Njoroge, who writes the column above me in the Star has often given out advice to teens who have the means to communicate with her via email. How do we ensure that kids who have no access to the internet are at least armed with information and the know-how to report these incidences? How do we teach our kids what’s appropriate and what isn’t?
Right up to today, I worry about those two girls. This incidence happened last year and I also know it was not an isolated case. How many people will stop outside schools to pick up unsuspecting children and sexually exploit them…?