Being a child is one of the most beautiful things in life. It is a stage of play, laughter, innocence, protection and pure love. There is no stress but joy. It is a period of learning where there is something new to understand each day. A chance to interact, a time to grow and discover. An opportunity to try and experience. A period to observe others and learn. This is why we all strive to always portray a good image to the children by being good role models. It’s a time of need, care and protection. Children will always ask more than they receive. That little something that you bring home will always put a smile on a child’s face for the rest of his/her life. Children always keep a strong memory of the good things happening in their life. Children always like to feel loved and recognized. To be given attention and appreciated. To have a voice that will be heard. To be allowed to be.
All these takes me back to my childhood memories where I would always stay close to my brother who was four years older than me for protection. I was a silent kid and spent most of the time observing and staring at others but play would loosen me up and allow me interact and socialize. In addition, some of the sweetest memories was when I would run into my father’s arms when he came home in the evening from work. I would quickly rumble through his pockets and his small luggage just to see if there was something for me. While doing this I would repeatedly ask my dad if indeed there was something he brought me. Lucky for me, he always had something. He would lift me up and together we would get into the house. I would narrate all the encounters of the day from the time he left as I await him to get me what he had brought for me. I would quickly get my “small seat” bring it and place it next to him as I observe him read the newspaper interrupting him once in a while to ask questions.
I had lots of time to play with friends when I joined kindergarten, I would study half day and sleep in the afternoon. Weekends were all free to have more play. I particularly enjoyed playing and sliding on mud, riding old motor vehicle tires, skipping the rope and drawing games on the dust. This went on even when I was in year 1, 2, and 3 (7-9 years). I would still read half day and play all afternoon. I only had 4 books and education was less complicated. That was my childhood and I did enjoy but that was me!
Nowadays things have changed. I observe the 7 and 8 years old children I work with in the schools. Every time there is a meeting with the children, they show up with ‘heavy bags’ sometimes even too heavy for them to carry. The bags are full of books. The children then take me through their daily routine and clearly it is full of busy schedules and programs. There is very little time to play and definitely no time to sleep. Those who get the time to play opt for computer games and play station. The modern child no longer gets dirty by playing with mud and dust like I did.
The modern child in Kenya is busy with books and has a loaded curriculum that focuses on passing exams rather than discovering and growing the skills, talents and dreams of the child. Great focus is placed on getting good grades that will propel the child forward and this then means more and more books, more reading, heavier school bags, very little play time, and no afternoon sleep. But till when?
All in all the sweet nature in children still remains. Every time I get to a school, all the young children come running to me, holding their DirtPol work ready to show me and narrating their encounters in the school. I listen to them as they push and shout each other down just to get my attention. The obedience, genuineness and honesty of a child makes it worth their ‘time’. I enjoy every moment. All these attributes are a reflection of the love and appreciation given to them by their parents and care givers.
What about that child who is unloved and needs attention. It is easy to spot them as they portray a certain unusual behavior such as aggressiveness, aloofness and low self-esteem. We cannot solve the problems encountered by the child, but we can always put a smile on their faces by including them in the activities, giving them a voice, appreciation and having something small for them even just a ‘sweet’.
Childhood comes and goes! Let us try and make it sweet and memorable for all children we come across!
About the author: Anne Kirori is a project researcher on the DirtPol project and her work is primarily based in schools and education.
About the project: DirtPol is an international cultural studies project based at the University of Sussex. For more information please visit the DirtPol website.
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