Friday, August 1, 2008

The cries of the children

More negativity to way up for all the positive posts of Kajsa and the rest...

Last year I was here I needed something to do, and coming straight from working with children from D.R. Congo in kindergarten in Norway, I had realized children might be the way to go for me. My bachelor in African Studies has brought me back and forth to Africa, and opened some doors I didn’t expect, but working with children appeals more to me than anything else.

So last year I was introduced to the Community 2, nr. 1 Municipal Day Care Center, who were more than willing to take me in as free labour. And I was more than ready to gain experience in educating children, in a totally different environment. But I wasn’t up to the task. I couldn’t avoid being witness to regular beatings of tiny children, who most of the time had done nothing apart from just being children. Sometimes I ended up between the child and the vicious bamboo rod held by terrifying “teachers”, and I realized the situation was absurd. I know kids are beaten in schools, nurseries and homes in Ghana, hell, I’ve attended secondary school here and watched 18 year old boys cry after getting lashed by an over-eager, frustrated teacher. But at least, the 18 year olds who brought knives to school or deliberately breached the uniform dress code by tying their shoe laces around their legs instead of on the shoe, kind of had it coming. They had the sense to know what they did was against the rules, and they knew very well the consequences. But a 2-year old who cries cos he is scared on his first day in a nursery where all are strangers and the grown ups are intimidating instead of safe, when he is afraid of going to sleep in this unknown place, he gets beaten. And it tells the child: the teachers are dangerous, they will beat you. While the teachers feel it tells the child: it is wrong of you to cry, don’t cry, expecting the 2-year old to learn from this lesson, while the 2-year old has forgotten what happened the next day, and he cries again. His brain doesn’t even connect the crying with the beating.

Realizing that my plan wasn’t to try and change the old women working in the kindergarten, and realizing that none of the children really respected me cos I didn’t beat them, made me give up. A shameful thing to do, but being there made me depressed and sad and I had watched babies being beaten for too long.

Still, now I live right across the road from a similar nursery and the cries of the children in there is the backdrop to my morning activities.

Yesterday I was watching the TV3 Evening News and they had a report from Korle-Bu (regional hospital) from the burns unit at the hospital, showing horrible images of people with burn injuries, while the focus of the report was the lack of staff in the unit. 50% of cases reported at Korle-Bu involved children under 5 years of age. How do so many young children suffer such injuries? Well, yesterday afternoon the same thing could have happened at my house. Assembly woman told me she was going out somewhere, and I said ok, while realizing her 4-year old daughter was alone on the porch with a 2 year old neighbour kid. No one around to watch them, and she didn’t ask me to either. Minutes later I found the girl with a box of matches, trying to light it. She has easy access to an big, rusty gas cylinder in her moms kitchen and I didn’t like the grim alternatives minding my own business could bring forth. I confiscated the match box, and therefore had to suffer the wrath of Adwoa as she demonstrated how infuriated she got from my display of power. Trying to explain that matches can be dangerous and are for adults to use, was lost on her as she stood pressing her face against the wall, refusing to look at me.

I know we overprotect our children somehow in my own country. But am I hysterical to react? I wouldn’t know.


Maya said...

Of course you must react, gosh imagine what could have happened with the gas and the matches. The problem really is how to transition people from the child-beating to realising that talking to children can get the same result, and sometimes they're crying simply because they need to. All societies have at some point adopted child-beating, it is still very popular in England under the lighter name 'smacking'.

What's the next step, how do we get people to stop?

posekyere said...

In my book the underlying reason for these mindless manifestations is IRRESPONSIBILITY.
It is irresponsible to leave little children unattended. A responsible person could have thought of the consequences of leaving a little kid in the company of matches and a gas cylinder unattended.
It is equally irresponsible to beat up a 2-year old kid or any child for that matter.

Having grown up and attended school in Ghana, I can attest to the brtality of being mercilessly canned for the slightest mishap.

I wonder if these teachers were taught anything about child psychology and if so why are they disragarding the proper way of approaching children and rather opting for these jungle way of disciplining children?

It is sickening!