Sending errant children to South Africa to be reformed

Remandees at Nakuru Juvenile Remand Home, November 22, 2022. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The question whether to spare the rod and spoil the child has long bothered policy-makers. And in circumstances where the children defied authority necessitating their locking up in formal institutions, the jailers agonised how to reform the delinquents.

In a bid to reform children, the government carried out an experiment where children who had been convicted and legally held in approved schools were given some half time, away from their “prisons” as an incentive.

One such experiment carried out in 1950 by the prisons department saw some of the juveniles released for a short period to go and serve their sentence at home.

“The results which have been shown by this experiment have been so satisfactory that it is considered desirable to enable it to be done on a more regularised basis. The benefit has not only been for the juvenile but to the discipline and the morale of the institution itself,” the Attorney General, J.B Hobson enthused.

Hobson was so inspired by these results that he even proposed that white children who broke the law could even be sent to serve their country in South Africa because there was no institution in Kenya at the time where such calibre of law breakers fitted.

"I regret to say that none of the approved schools has any facilities for the reception of and treatment of European juvenile delinquents,” the Solicitor General argued.

At the time there was a case which was going on in Mombasa where a 16-year-old boy was being tried and there was fear that in the event he was found guilty and sentenced there would be no suitable institution to hold him.  

He hoped that the law could be changed to suit a similar one operational in South Africa.

The  colonial government’s plan at the time was to ensure that juveniles found guilty in Kenya could be transported to South Africa where they could serve their time and later brought back home once they were reformed.

The chief government legal advisor however found himself in trouble with some leaders who observed that by commenting on the fate of a person who whose case had not been concluded amounted to contempt of court.

Other forms of evacuation of juveniles have since be experimented by the government. There have been stories of street children being flushed out of Nairobi to far flung towns with lofty promises of education and paramilitary training all in vain.