Mabarei kuinetab teta moitanyi. (Nandi)
Pembe ya ng’ombe haiui ndama wake. (Swahili)
La corne d’une vache ne tue pas son veau. (French)
A cow’s horn does not kill its calf. (English)
This proverb from the Nandi community, which is part of the Kalenjin ethnic group in Kenya, emphasizes the importance of discipline, responsibility and punishing of children when they have done something wrong. Such strict measures aim to ensure that children are trained to grow up responsibly, to enable them to become suitable leaders of tomorrow.
To the Nandi community, punishing a child when they err does not necessarily show a sign of hatred, rather, it is a good way to ensure they grow up to become responsible and productive members of the society.
How does this proverb apply to the world in general and African society in particular? A lot. Most often, in many lawless societies, the leaders of such societies are indirectly the cause of social deficiencies. Children look up to the elders to become responsible members of society. In our various societies, we look up to our leaders for direction and corrections.
On the other hand, elders who are supposed to punish or correct children are expected to live by examples. When the rot starts with the heads, it quickly gets into the whole body.
Looking at African society, many governments would have little or no problems to lock up a citizen for 20 years without a trial, for stealing a fowl. Yet in the same societies, leaders who have stolen billions of dollars are hardly touched. Yes, billions, which would have been invested in social services, meant to create employment and other services that would have perhaps prevented the fowl thief from committing a crime. Every crime is a crime, no doubt, but punishments meted out for crimes must be proportional and appropriate for the sake of equity and justice.
It is only when the those who punish or train others to grow up responsibly and become quintessential leaders of tomorrow are themselves responsible, that we can confidently say that a cow’s horn does not kill its calf cow.