I know I promised that Fridays would be for food or fashion but you know, this issue on child abuse is really a big deal and lots of people have plenty to say about it. Different thoughts also cross my mind each day and I wonder if some of our daily practices we term as normal aren't forms of abuse to the child. Like I mentioned in my post on "where do you draw the line between child abuse and child discipline", I shared this topic with some people in the marriage preparatory class and here are some of the observations we came up with too. For example;
- Growing up as a child, I remember that I closed from nursery school at 12 noon and when the time came to make the transition to primary school where I'd now close by 1 pm, I didn't like it. Similarly when I was about entering secondary school, it meant I'll have to go home by pass 2 pm.
- Also, back then children didn't start school until they were considered old enough which usually was around 2-3 years for the average Nigerian child. Now, they start from creche as early as 6 months old and remain there till their parents close from work at 4pm.
- If it is said that charity begins at home, then what charity has a 6 month old learn by the time he/she is being exposed at such an age to kids of other backgrounds and ages and also so little time spent with their parents.
- Let me not even go into the issue of children no longer involved in outdoor games like football. They are usually all cooked up in front of the TV watching cartoons or playing video games. No time spent to develop other parts of the brain.
- Another observation is that back then, extra lesson classes where meant for children who weren't doing to well in class and as such needed more attention when the class has been reduced after closing hours. These lessons were also for those in exam preparation classes.
- During the holidays, we all wanted to go and live with relatives outside the state of our current residence mostly to places where we had cousins of same age groups, so most of the time a kid leaves his/her home to live with a cousin for about a month and vice versa. It was like a kid exchange programme.
I noticed and I also understand that this happened because there are a whole lot of working mothers than they were when I was growing up. I remember coming home to meet my mum or aunties at home.
People did not have trust issues as the crime rate was much much lower. Now, there are stories of nannies kidnapping the children they are supposed to cater for, Others doing even meaner things. For example, the 3 children of a couple were recently diagnosed with HIV gotten because the maid brushed their teeth with the same one she uses.
Also these days, the youth prefer to go to school up to the highest levels instead of settling for just learning a job or becoming an apprentice. This is a practice I support very well as the amount of ignorant and illiterate youths in Nigeria were becoming overwhelming.
Nowadays the children are in school till 4 pm in the name of extra lessons without any rest in between end of school to beginning of lesson. Instead of going on holiday visits, they are made to go for even more lessons and then the children are in school the whole year through except Christmas period. There is no time to rest their minds.
My point in bringing up these issues is this:
- If neglect is a form of abuse, and these children stay in school till 4pm without much contact with their parents who also come home late and exhausted, unable to spend adequate time with the children, are they not been neglected?
- The essence of keeping them longer in school for extra lessons has also been defeated as the children are taught something totally different from what they are taught earlier in the day and worse of all, they are given homework on topics they haven't been taught in school before.
- These teachers forget that they (the teachers) individually take different subjects and that the parents might not be very indepth in the topics taught in primary schools. Have any of you tried to solve quantitative aptitude of any of your kids? tell me how long it took you to solve. Now imagine the child wasn't taught in school and they are given as homework? they don't know it, you the parents don't know it. Is this not a type of emotional abuse on the children.
- With constant lack of attention, the children watch whatever they like on television and may indulge in activities that could put them in harm's way.
Recently, while on call one night, as I did my usual ward rounds, I came across a TV programme that's very common in Nigeria. It was the "who wants to be a millionaire" show, where individuals are asked some questions and the more correct the answers the more money they win, they also had lifelines. Almost like the British show "the weakest link" but in this case only one person played. Usually it's adult on the hot seat, so it caught my attention when I saw a child of about 11-12 years. That wasn't what shocked me, It was that the child was asked "Which of these is a nocturnal bird?" and the options a) Ostrich b) Turkey c) Vulture d) Owl were listed on the screen. The child didn't know the answer so he decided to use one of his lifelines - 50/50, two of the options were removed and it remained options "c" and "d". He (the child) was still confused so he to use his second lifeline - to call a friend. He called his teacher and OMG! the teacher didn't know the answer. At this point the child decided to make a choice and chose option "d" - Owl and his dad in the audience was shown shaking his head like "oh no! son, you got it wrong". Meanwhile, all this time I was screaming the answer and shouting, My patients and the entire staff started laughing at my reaction. Anyhow he scaled through but he couldn't for the next question that was "What is the capital of Liberia?"
My point again, keeping these kids in school for long hours is not always beneficial because at his age I knew what nocturnal animals were and I could recite the country and capital of every African country and beyond. We were taught about world maps and prepared for inter-school competitions and essay-writing competitions. I wonder if any of these still happen nowadays.
Funny, until the onset of staying long hours in school, Nigeria hadn't recorded only a 2% pass in NECO exams. Furthermore, these children are exposed to various forms of health risk from common cold to illnesses necessitating hospital admissions. I have seen situations where the nanny in charge of the children fed about three children at the same time with her bare hands! *sign of the cross*. - God help us all.
We need to find ways to solve these problems before it gets out of hand. Send in your suggestions as comments. Cheers