BALANCING THE IMBALANCED CHILD
The world society is imbalanced in most if not in all sectors of life. This is in leadership-maintenance of infrastructure-remuneration of employees-allocation of resources-acquisition of property-conservation of the environment-poverty reduction-child care. In fact, the list is long and all the factors in it need balancing for the sake of equity.
In other words, all the above mentioned phenomena are of importance in relation to human co-existence. So, objective insight into all of them is a necessity. However, the same done to one of them is as good as doing it to all of them because they are inter-related in one way or another. In our case we will use child care as an example.
The term child care is understood by most people to refer to the care for infants at babyhood stage and children at kid stage which runs up to approximately twelve, fourteen or fifteen years of age. This is because youth stage begins from fifteen or sixteen up to twenty five or twenty six years of age though most governments recognize a youth who is eighteen years of age to be an adult. This category of grown ups may therefore be referred to as young adults because they still belong to the youth stage. So, no matter the age bracket for childhood, the issue at hand is child care. This is why in the African traditional society, there exists a saying that a child is a child whether he or she is young, is of age, school or college going.
Otherwise, child care is the proper up-bringing of children by responsible parents or guardians. On the otherhand, improper up-bringing of children is what is referred to as child abuse. This can be done in a number of ways, for example, by not teaching children social or informal education at home, by denying them the right to access formal education at school, by not up-bringing children in the ways of God, practicing incest on children, exposing them to promiscuity and child labour. Such activities usually back fire on irresponsible parents or guardians, their families and the larger society in form of vices.
On the other hand, proper up-bringing of children by either parents or guardians makes them to respect people in authority like teachers at school, leaders in the society at large, people in the community and God. So, when they are of age they become responsible citizens in both public and private life. In the long run, they pass the same virtues to the next generation as heritage.
So, proper child care instead of improper one is advantageous to human co-existence. In other words, since child care is connected to all the earlier mentioned phenomena in one way or another, the proper up-bringing of children through education on the same will motivate them to improve on the very factors in the long run. This means that societal imbalance in certain sectors of life can find solutions as a balance within the world society itself through children who will be the leaders of tomorrow as people often say. To prove this, let us learn from the following.
THE WALL CHART STORY
One time in the 1990s, I called in at his family friend’s residence in the city of Kisumu in Kenya to find out how they were faring on. The reason for this was because it was quite some time since I last visited them. As I entered through the main door after having knocked on it and received a nod from the occupants, an aroma from the kitchen’s direction hit my nostrils. Definitely, a delicious lunch meal was being prepared early enough. If it was brought on table as I arrived and I was asked to have a bite, I would have found it difficult to accept. The reason was that as I sat down after having been welcomed, I noticed an attractive wall chart that was hung above the chair on which he was about to sit on.
No sooner had I sat on the chair than I excused myself, stood up and read through the wall chart from top to bottom. It contained a story which was illustrated by the use of pictures that were drawn in cartoon and comic styles in sequence accompanied with averagely brief corresponding literature written below each. The beauty of it was the mix and blend of the colours which were applied on it that made it irresistible for a second glance. Coupled with the story, it was a masterpiece in its own right as follows:
“Eva!,” called Mr.Ogendo the mathematics teacher at the top of his voice as he ended it with an exclamation.
“Yes sir,” replied Eva.
“Come here. Take this money, go to the school canteen and buy fifteen half cakes. Remember it is time for taking tea and the teachers are waiting for it in the staff room. It is almost boiling as the electrical kettle cooks fast. So hurry up,” Mr. Ogendo instructed her.
As is evident from the above, it was mid morning break-time when Mr.Ogendo sighted Eva among the other students who had just left their classrooms for the occasion.
On Eva’s return, she handed over the items which she had gone to purchase to Mr. Ogendo inside the teacher’s staff room after which Madam Miss as the English Literature teacher had been nick named by the students, did not spare her.
“Come here Eva,” Madam Miss commanded her. “Take these tea spoons, wash them with clean water, apply detergent then rinse them with steel wool after which wash them again with running tap water before returning them to me. Be fast lest tea will cool down,” she added.
“Where will I get steel wool and detergent soap?” Eva enquired.
“Stop,” retorted Madam Miss.
Due to fear, Eva rushed out of the staffroom, washed the tea spoons with tap water alone since she did not have any idea on where to get steel wool and detergent soap. After a short moment, she returned and re-approached the teacher who had sent her on this second errand by addressing her this way:
“Excuse me Madam Miss, here they are,” said Eva.
Good heavens! Eva had forgotten the English teacher’s real name which was Mrs. Posh. By reflex action, a slap from the teacher’s hand landed on the left cheek of Eva. It was so terrific such that it sent the staffroom’s atmospheric realms into dead silence. In other words, the teachers stopped chatting instantly as their faces frowned while their eyes could not hide the virtual pain that they felt as if they were the ones who had been hit hard. Concurrently, Eva fell on the floor and collapsed.
However, miracles have not ceased to occur. If you still believe that they were only meant for the biblical prophetic and apostolic times then learn from the following that this was not the case. In other words, the Biology teacher and the Patroness of the school’s First Aid Club, Madam Habrieka, sprang onto her feet and rushed into the staffroom’s kitchen only to emerge carrying a bucket of cold water which she poured on the unconscious Eva. To the surprise of the teachers, Eva became conscious instantly.
At that very moment, the first bell that marked the end of recess was rung by Philomena Achieng, the school time-keeper. Meanwhile, Madam Habrieka sent Eva who had already stood up to the dormitory to dry her wet body and wear her other set of school uniform before returning to the classroom to attend the next lesson.
Eva obeyed the teacher’s instructions and after she was through, she locked the door of the dormitory then walked hurriedly towards Form 3 classroom. On arrival, she found when the Geography teacher Mr. Emilio Porojo had just entered into the classroom. So, she stood on the door steps of the classroom as a late comer though not by choice but due to a teacher’s errand mishap. As she was pondering on the next move which was definitely to knock on the door politely, Mr. Porojo’s voice roared inquisitively this way:
“Why have you come late?” He asked Eva while looking at her over the top rim of his slim spectacles to the surprise of her classmates who were by then aware of the staffroom encounter. As if to add salt to injury, the geography teacher had asked the above question yet he was a witness to all the experiences that Eva had encountered in the staffroom.
“Excuse me sir”, Eva began to answer him but she was unable to continue because tears were already rolling down her cheeks such that she was soaked in a sob.
“Shut up,” shouted Mr. Porojo. “Go to the staffroom and bring two packets of dustless pieces of chalk, one of white and the other of mixed colour. They are on my desk,” he instructed.
She went obediently but to the chagrin of her classmates who murmured in a gradual rising crescendo that came to an abrupt halt when the be-spectacled teacher turned his head suddenly and faced them. The Form 3 students did this because according to their understanding of this new errand, the teacher should have sent the class monitor or any other student to fetch the packets of chalk, not Eva.
LESSONS LEARNT FROM EVA’S STORY
The question which one ought to ask in reference to the above story is as follows:
When will the girl-child get time to prepare for a bright future in the fulfillment of her dreams in life and in nation building?
As you might still be pondering on the answer to the above question, note that first, Eva had missed her official recess time that was meant for her mental recreation through a bit of ordinary physical stretches like walking and socialization with her school peers in preparation for concentration in the next lessons in class. In other words, as much as certain school teachers consider recess time to be insignificant to pupils and students alike such that they use it as an opportunity for sending them on errands, they are wrong because it means much to learners even if it is brief. In fact, recess times should not be less than fifteen minutes but it is better if it lasts for an average of twenty or a maximum of twenty-five minutes if not half an hour.
Secondly, schools have errand employees who belong to the auxiliary staff. This includes office messengers for office errands, grounds workers for the maintenance of the school compound, kitchen staff for meal related errands, drivers for the transportation of students, teachers and goods. So, pupils or students may only be used for such duties as part of an all round education or in the absence of the helping staff but not the way it was done to Eva. In her case, the first errand of buying half cakes for teachers was enough and by ending there the consequent mishap would have been avoided.
Thirdly, Eva’s case portrays how a girl child is usually made to work in certain world communities at the expense of her studies. This is best proved in mixed schools but it does not mean that the same is not done to a boy-child. It is only that emphasis is usually placed on the girl-child more than on the boy-child since she is the one who is often misused by the society thus the imbalanced child.
THE WAY FORWARD
Back to the wall chart that was hung over my head. A scrutiny of its footnotes section from close range revealed what I had not noticed earlier on. This gave me some relief because it portrayed it as a United Nations chart that was specially tailored for schools and the community of Nyanza region in western Kenya thus the application of some Luo native names like Ogendo and Achieng in the wall chart story above. It was on the plight of the girl-child in terms of the imbalance which is levered between unofficial errands and the study time of pupils and students at school. It was being challenged by a United Nations agency known as the United Nations International Children’s Education Fund or UNICEF as part and parcel of the denial of a child’s right thus child abuse.
On turning around to sit again after having scrutinized the wall chart, I noticed my host beckoning me to the table for lunch. The cooks had just completed the delivery of food containers, utensils and cutlery. However, my appetite for the delicious meal had vanished into thin air as another one had taken its stead. It was that of an imbalanced girl-child and her future role in the society. So, I joined him at table rather reluctantly. Can you guess what made me to eat! It was our discussion on the topic about education of the girl-child.
I understand that the Geneva based International Labour Organization which is also a United Nations agency and is better known as ILO is also concerned about the same. In other words, while UNICEF is concerned about the education of a child, the ILO is concerned about the omission of child labour so that a child can be educated at school in preparation for a better future. The beauty of this is how the two United Nations agencies work on the child factor from two opposing ends yet they achieve the same result apparently as a twin predetermined plan or as a coincidence along the line of duty.
Does this mean that the society is concerned too about the education of a child, more or so a girl-child! The answer is that to a lesser extent yes but to a greater extent no. This is because in many world communities, the gap of discrimination between a girl-child and a boy-child is still wide. This is due to customary practices on preferential treatment for boys in contrast to those for girls in societal roles. So the governments of countries in which such communities exist should enact national laws that harmonize customary regulations. These should be followed to the letter even by the governments which have already enacted such laws. In this way, discrimination against the girl-child especially in academic education and equal career opportunities with the boy child will be taken care of effectively.
From the above, it is obvious that the society is the problem on the welfare of the child. It also does not seem to notice and learn from the efforts of both UNICEF and ILO on child education. So, the society should join others in the proper child-care bandwagon so as to help balance the imbalanced girl-child such that together with the some how balanced boy child we will be able to balance the earlier referred phenomena that are: leadership-maintenance of infrastructure-remuneration of employees-allocation of resources-acquisition of property-conservation of environment-reduction of poverty among others. Remember, this is because proper child-care is virtual care for the above named factors since it is the child who receives education and guidance then later on applies the same on them.
COPYRIGHT: WILFRED OTIENO 2012