By Juliet Rogers
Children represent a country’s future. From today’s children will come forth tomorrow’s leaders in all spheres of human endeavor in every country in the world. Sierra Leone is no exception.
A country that is rich in terms of natural means, but yet poor in terms of pecuniary means like Sierra Leone needs to pay careful attention to her children if our country is ever to become a successful, prosperous, healthy and happy country capable of properly managing our huge natural resources. A country that properly educates its people from childhood will be a country and with its people, respected worldwide.
Paying attention to our children means educating and nurturing them in good schools and in good health while creating good employment opportunities for their parents to earn a decent income so that they are better able to feed, clothe, house and provide them with proper home training and keep them safe from harm.
Today, our country is not a happy place with poverty and hardships almost everywhere and with many people risking their lives crossing the rough Mediterranean Sea in search of greener pastures. A country must not put any of its people in such a terrible situation.
The present difficult situation in our country emanates from the fact that the majority among the present adult generation did not benefit from human development programs when they were children. Accordingly, many of them grew up to be illiterate, ignorant, full of superstition, poor, hungry, penniless, sickly and unemployable because they have no marketable skills. Further, many are just gullible people easily lied to and misled by unscrupulous people into doing scores of malicious mischief to our country.
Our elders tell us that 30 years or so ago, some evil wannabe political leaders recruited many gullible children and unemployed adults and misled them to wage a horrific war on innocent people in our country.
The brutal war by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) illiterate and ignorant rebels caused much death and destruction in our land but, thankfully, the RUF did not win. However, had those they succeeded in recruiting and misled been properly developed with education and good home training when they were children, the RUF would not have succeeded in recruiting them for they would have promptly been reported to the authorities and would have thus saved our people from a whole lot of grief.
5 years or so ago, a terrible pestilence was visited upon our land, spreading in no time like a wild fire during the Harmattan Season. Part of the reason the Ebola virus raced so rapidly across our land was because most of our people were not developed enough to understand and accept healthcare instructions as to properly respond so as not to spread the virus. Consequently, some of our people relied on superstitions and other non-scientific responses once the virus entered their homes. The result was utterly catastrophic for many innocent people.
In the meantime, reflect on these words:
“Children are the foundation of our society, the torchbearers of our nation. As a teacher and an influencer, one must take care of the moral training and basic qualities that are conferred on the children. It will eventually affect the fate of the country as a whole. Moral education is a must to be executed as understudies in schools and universities.”
It is, therefore, very important that our authorities understand the absolute need to properly develop its children to cope with all kinds of temptations and many relevant problems likely to confront them as they grow into adulthood. Such development will equip our children so that they are best able to take part in the important role they will be playing tomorrow as adults in moving our country into the modern world. Our authorities must invest much public funds, attention and skills in getting our people healthy, educated with good manners, be law-abiding, free of superstitious beliefs and willing to work hard and smart as adults to help make our country safe and prosperous for all in a modern Sierra Leone.
William Ralph Inge the British Theologian who explored mystic aspects of Christianity, was quoted as saying in “The Observer” of 1929: “The proper time to influence the character of a child is about a hundred years before he is born.”
No wonder the bird prepares its nest before laying eggs and it does not stop there, it continues to take care of the nestling until it is able to fend for itself. This is what we call good parenting.
As Charles Spurgeon has written: “If you ever feel it incumbent upon you not to prejudice a piece of ground by sowing good seed in it, you may rest assured that the weeds will not imitate your impartiality, but they will take possession of the land in a very sad and shocking manner. Where the plough does not go, and the seed is not sown, the weeds are quite sure to multiply; and if children are left untutored and untrained, all sorts of evils will spring up in their hearts and lives.”
A Yoruba adage loosely translated states: “The child you did not spend time to train will grow up to squander the wealth you spent time to build.” To brace this point, there is a well-known biblical instruction that,
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” – Proverbs 22:6
In this laconic verse, there is a painstaking command to obey, “train up,” and a reliable promise to claim, “and when he is old, he will not turn from it.” Therein, we have both God’s precept and His dependable promise to every parent. Parents need to know what this means and believe and trust in the subtle process. The issue, of course, is knowing what the verse says and fulfilling the command. This verse means far more than what forthwith meets the eyes and nothing at all of what most think. The verse is not talking about mere forced parental conformity. Is goes deeper than that. Michael Pearl remarked: “If you raise your voice when giving a command to your child, he will learn to associate your tone and sound level with your intention. If you have trained him to respond to a bellow, don’t blame him if he ignores your thirteen calm ‘suggestions’ while waiting for your fevered pitch to reach the point where he interprets it to be a real command.”
Every child is unique and blessed with a special gift from GOD. GOD created each and everyone of us with specific gift(s) and attributes. Therefore, it is imperative for parents to study their children, understand them and train them in the way they should GO. Once the foundation is made from the early stage, it is unlikely that the child will depart from it. “Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them,” said Dr. Rita F Pierson, an educational trainer and consultant, a Licensed Professional Counselor and human resource developer, “who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.”
Things are by nature wired to decompose, except when considerate efforts are made to conserve them. Whatever decadence we see in society today, is an outcome of children who grew up living their lives by default. “The Earth needs more of her children to take their rightful position as her keepers,” said Brian M. Heater.
In Psalms 127:3, the Scripture Affirms: “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.”
The theme here has to do with building a family.
Children are one of the gifts of ELOHIYM. Who can create his own progeny? As Solomon asserts, “Behold, children [literally, ‘sons’] are a heritage from the LORD.” To extend our name and our blood into the next generation, is a part of Elohiym’s blessing and promise to us (Gen 1:28). Moreover, a fruitful womb “is His reward.” With poetic power, Solomon likens: “children of one’s youth” to the “arrows in the hand of a warrior” (Psa 127:4). They serve to protect the family. Like physical arms, they give their father a sense of security. Therefore, “Happy” (“Blessed,” plural of fullness) is the man who has many, “a quiver full.”
In this connection, child abuse is not the solution to the problems that hamper a solid grooming of the child.
The General Assembly of the United Nations had declared the rights of the child on the 20th of November 1959, in accordance with resolution 1386 (xiv). Ten principles were embodied in this declaration which constituted a code for the well-being of the child.
Let me mention four, among the provisions of the declaration viz:
1. “The child, for the full and harmonious development of his personality, needs love and understanding. He shall, wherever possible, grow up in the care and under the responsibility of his parents, and in any case, in an atmosphere of affection and of moral and material security; a child of tender years shall not, except in exceptional circumstances, be separated from his mother…”
2. “The child shall be protected from practices which may foster racial, religious and any other form of discrimination. He shall be brought up in a spirit of understanding, tolerance, friendship among peoples, peace and universal brotherhood, in full consciousness that his energy and talents should be devoted to the service of his fellow men.”
3. “The child shall be given opportunities and facilities by law and other means to enable him to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity.”
4. “The child shall be protected against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation and shall not be the subject of traffic in any form.”
Have we addressed these issues as adults, in toto? I am going to answer the rhetorical question with a flat No!
Let us look at Education. The child’s entitlement to free and compulsory education especially in the elementary stages to (in the words of the provisions of the declaration) “enhance his general culture and enable him to develop his abilities, his sense of moral and social responsibility and to become a useful member of society,” has to be prioritized so that posterity will be in a position to receive a healthy legacy.
This latter principle (of the declaration), was even espoused by the United Nations lately, in its Millennium Development Goals as goal 2, which is “To achieve universal primary education,” not to mention 1979 which the afore-mentioned organization declared as the year of the child. This was done I believe, to accentuate the role of children as leaders of tomorrow.
An accent on child development is very much necessary because very important people and celebrities of today, were once children. To respect the personality of a child is so important that, even a child enplaned as an unaccompanied passenger is well taken care of by the airline until he gets to his destination.
Furthermore, in article 25 of the Human Rights Declaration, it is stated that to be a mother or a child, entitles one to special care and assistance. In the UK for example, there is what is known as ‘child benefit’ which is regular payment by the state to the parents of a child, to a certain age. So you see.
Here in Sierra Leone, (perhaps it is true elsewhere), the most difficult stage in the rearing of a child, especially the girl-child, is what is referred to as the awkward age -adolescence.
Those who belong to this group which strictly speaking, is between childhood and adulthood, entertain the thought that youth must have its fling. This is the time when this peer-group is hard to manage and as a result, becomes misfit of civilized society; school drop-outs, victims of teen-age pregnancy, prostitutes, members of certain cults and gangs; vagrants, gamblers, pickpockets, shoplifters and those who are much younger in comparison, become waifs and strays.
To avoid these unfortunate happenings, parents, teachers, community-leaders, true Patriots and the state should team up to make meaningful contributions to the development of children in order that they become useful citizens.
To teach the child at an early age to be God-fearing and to acquire religious knowledge in addition to scientific knowledge, is the absolute responsibility of the parents (it is incumbent upon even a single parent).
I agree that the worldly life might influence one’s son and daughter later in life to give in to ungodly perversion but the fact remains that, if he or she had received a solid grounding in religious matters, it wouldn’t be easy for him or her (child) to veer from that path.
I hope the rising generation would listen to parents and try to conform to their wishes for an unclouded future.
To conclude, the Arabs say: “who trains his child when young will find pleasure in him when grown up.”
Juliet Rogers is a Societal Engineer, Life&Emotional Intelligence Coach.