Shamed by the children

And a little child shall lead them … So often, it seems, the children shame us. "In their innocence and trusting they will teach us to be free" goes the famous John Denver composition. Events in Zimbabwe over the last few days have proved the wisdom of the children once again. And those

of us who hang back in fear of the thugs and the whips and the dogs – and even the bullets – should hang our heads in shame.
The Women of WOZA took to the streets again last week in their hundreds, this time accompanied by their children in school uniform, to protest against the massive hikes in fees that will condemn many of them to a life of idle ignorance, barred from schools throughout the country because their parents cannot afford the fees.
Imagine if thousands had joined them. The protest was peaceful. In fact it was all over in Bulawayo by the time the riot police arrived. Some 200 were arrested, including 73 children, under section 7C of the Miscellaneous Offences Act.
This in itself is proof that these women and children have not committed any offence.
The act criminalizes behaviour ‘which is likely to materially interfere with the ordinary comfort, convenience, peace or quiet of the public’.
We can think of many other culprits more deserving of the time and attention of the police. How about devoting their energies to investigating real crime, such as unsolved murders and bombings, beatings and torture?
Undaunted by the Bulawayo arrests, the women of Harare and their children marched bravely on Monday – a mere handful of them. Some 50 women, one aged almost 80, accompanied by a disabled man and 10 wise (foolish?), fearless children. Singing and dancing, they marched right past parliament and up to the building housing the Ministry of Education, handing out fliers and waving paper banners.
Then they evaporated into the crowd before the police could get them.
We applaud these courageous women and their children. Some might decry the use of children in this way. Before they do, may we suggest they pause and ponder just how desperate a woman would have to be to knowingly subject her child to danger – especially in Zimbabwe where children are so precious in our culture. The options for Zimbabwean mothers are now so limited – who will cast the first stone?
And let us not forget that it was the children of South Africa who challenged the might of the apartheid regime in 1976 – and won such a significant battle in the fight for freedom there. They paid a terrible price. Many were killed, arrested or forced to flee their country. To this day, many still suffer from lack of the education they sacrificed.
We pray it will not come to that in Zimbabwe.

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