When I was in university, I’d hear ladies or even men sometimes point out seemingly modest or religious ladies especially when they are fresh students and say, “Watoto wa geti kali wale. Just give them time, they’ll adjust” And by adjusting they mean, unveiling themselves and joining the rest in the typical university lifestyle. These statements used to really break my heart because it made life even more difficult for modest ladies; like they must fit in somehow, like they need to change, like this is the time for ‘freedom’ as most would say. But even more, it used to really scare me because eventually I came to see several sisters and even brothers slowly withdraw from their principles and values and embrace ‘the freedom syndrome’. Some entirely changed their mode of dressing and some discarded the religion as well. All this used to make me question a lot. Are we, as a community supposed to raise children in the ‘geti kali’ conditions or are we to show them the real world whilst giving them the weapons and right mind-set to deal with it?
Geti Kali houses in Mombasa are those homes whereby it is known that the children, especially the ladies are over-protected with strict rules on whom to interact with, talk to, where to go and limited permission to go out unnecessarily. At least that’s how I understand it. In its original sense, the geti kali culture is an innocently protective way for parents to ensure their children don’t go astray or get influenced or taken advantage of. It isn’t out of mistrust (not always), or just to put their children in distress, but just their own way to safeguard their children. Some connect this with religion whereby ladies are encouraged to settle in their homes and avoid unnecessary movements. Fine, but are we educating them on what is really happening outside their homes? The dangers, the kind of people, the rotten mind sets, the scary environment?
It is all good and safe until you take your child to university and poof! A whole new world is exposed to them. It is like taking a kid to Disney world for the first time, you can imagine their reaction. So this teenager or young adult suddenly, out of the blue, so abruptly is exposed to a new environment they totally have no idea about. They know absolutely nothing about. They don’t know how they will adjust to the new culture shock without losing their morals and values that their parents taught them. People who’ve never gone out to the shop by themselves and suddenly you leave them an entire day or semester in a totally foreign environment full of peer pressure. Even when they are not taken to university, these young adults stay at home and are given the phones; bringing the entire world to their rooms. Again, the amusement, the shock, the surprise like ‘All this exists?! Where have I been all along?!
Don’t get me wrong. I know several geti kali families who lead their lives in a modest way and the societal pressure didn’t get to them but what happens to the many others? Again, my question, are we to protect our children or show them the real world but weapon them to face it?
I heard one very dedicated teacher say, “We really have a problem. Sometimes a parent comes to us and asks why her very young daughter came home with a boy’s book. I mean, boys are living in the same world with us. You can’t protect your girl all your life. You need to train her to take care of herself. This is how we know of girls who grew up within very noble and pious families and they are very disciplined themselves, but one year into university, they came back home pregnant.” And this is really happening. It is, and we need to address it as it is; plain and honest.
I write this because I really wish someone else had prepared me enough for university life. Not because I come from a geti kali family but because everyone needs that mental preparation. At an early age, my mother plainly told me that there is a lot of fitna out there and she would frequently tell me on what’s going on around and the real situation and would repeat it to me that she trusts me enough to find my way without being influenced. I wasn’t given freedom per se, I was given a healthy amount of freedom such that sometimes I heard no many times before getting a yes. Despite having some healthy amount of exposure, I still wasn’t psychologically prepared enough to face the challenges. Now imagine someone who has absolutely zero idea how the real world is out there. They have no idea that a boy could pursuit you for a whole year just for one single night just to dump you immediately. They have no idea that many people will encourage you to join them in their filthy activities just because they can’t stand your seemingly upright morals. No one really prepares them for the world out there.
The truth is, eventually, one way or another, they will have to face that real world and what will they use to protect themselves when they don’t exactly know what they are dealing with?
Haven’t we seen people being raised in very good environments, very holy lands, yet still turn out lost? And haven’t we seen people growing up in very rotten societies yet still stand up firm on their principles?
You don’t raise your child in a palace all their childhood and once they become a young adult, you wake them one morning and say, “Son/Daughter…you need to go for war right now”. It is never going to be the same with the child who was raised in a palace yet still was informed about the continuous wars. This child is open-minded and is trained; ready for the war. They can never be the same.
No one is really safe from the whispers of shaitan. Not those in geti kali homes or those given absolute freedom. Don’t point fingers at others or other people’s children whilst you have no idea of how your own are dealing with the intensely influential phase of their lives. We are all fighting the same battles with our souls, we might as well share our notes and help each other in dealing with the problems we are facing. May Allah protect and guide us all. Ameen.