With the closure of schools as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, most children are likely to be left at home by working parents.
While at home all alone, children may engage in all kinds of house chores, some necessary, others not.
It is, therefore, very important to keep a close eye on our children to ensure that they do not play with anything that could harm them or, more especially, ignite a fire.
For instance, how children manage activities in the kitchen will come to the fore and this is where we urge the greatest caution.
Recently, the Daily Graphic carried a report in which Divisional Fire Officer (DFO) II Ellis Robinson Okoe of the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) advised parents to educate their children on fire safety to reduce the rate of domestic fires and their resultant injuries and fatalities.
According to the GNFS, 86 domestic fire incidents had been recorded between January and March this year, most of which were attributed to minor mistakes on the part of children.
Parents must, therefore, make it their utmost priority, before they go out to work or leave the house, to ensure that their children are and will be safe at home until most COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and things return to normalcy.
The Daily Graphic cannot agree more with the advice by DFO II Okoe, but in ensuring that charge, parents must sensitise not only their children but also housekeepers, house helps and any adult in the house in charge of children to the basic precautions to keep to be safe.
If children must wash and sanitise their hands at home, they must not be allowed into kitchens to undertake any chores or run errands. If children must play, then match boxes, charcoal, gallons with petrol in them and gas cylinders must be nowhere near their vicinity of play.
More importantly, basic fire safety measures must be taken seriously. These include the need for caution with gas cylinders, the use of mobile phones in the kitchen and the use of alcohol-based sanitisers and the fire risks they could pose.
Apart from sensitisation to domestic fires, children must also be sensitised to keep away from knives, machetes, wells in compounds, parked vehicles (as some children at play may enter the vehicles, lock themselves up and may be unable to come out), pools and anything that might endanger their lives.
Indeed, parents must become sleuths and predict any possible scenarios that may pose danger to children and act appropriately to redress them.
They can do that either by sensitising children not to go near the danger zones or removing completely from the house the dangerous situation that persists.
These actions must be taken by parents not only as their duty and prime responsibility but also because of the Welfare Principle of the Childrens Act 1998 (Act 560), which states in Section 2 (1): “The best interest of the child shall be paramount in any matter concerning a child.”
The interest of the child is paramount because children are not adults and are not conscious of what can endanger their lives and what cannot.
The interest of the child is paramount because they are put in the care and charge or parents or guardians, until they become adults themselves.
Parents ought to know that the lives of their children are to be nurtured and not destroyed, for which reason, as DFO II Okoe said, parents must “keep an eye on them”.
Some adults assume that children ought to know right and do it. They take umbrage when infants run onto streets where vehicles are whizzing past, forgetting that children at that young developmental stage are quite naive in their capacity to make judgements and reach decisions.
Therefore, adults need to use their better developed judgements and mental reasoning to make those decisions for children and help protect them until they get to the stage where they can make those judgements independently.
The Daily Graphic urges all parents and guardians to take the advice of the GNFS seriously and ensure that children, while they are at home, are safe.
Even when the COVID-19 restrictions are over, the home should always be safe havens for children.