Tue, 20 Feb 2018 08:35:55 +0000
..but we are from the epicentre
By Edna Y. Kazonga
BEFORE I talk about school, let me mention certain things. I was relaxing at home and watching a free range Hen which was moving all over the place with her adorable chicks.
The interesting thing is that whatever the Hen did, the chicks carefully imitated.
Firstly, the Hen pecked on an old piece of wood and the chicks did the same and when the Hen stopped pecking, the chicks also stopped pecking.
The Hen then chased a worm in the flower bed and the little ones followed suit. How interesting!
LEARNING BY IMITATION
Let us connect the chicken story to the Cholera Epidemic in our beloved country. Psychologists and educationists tell us that children learn by imitation. In other words, young ones observe whatever we do as adults and take it as the right thing to do. In short when we don’t take care of our surroundings, we send a silent message to our little ones that it is okay to throw things anyhow and they do exactly the same. However, our carelessness will sadly hit back on us, our children and grandchildren. The Cholera Epidemic is an excellent example of how our carelessness hits back on us.
Here are common examples of some of the things which our children do by observation and imitation:
- Little boys urinate on trees and even in the middle of the road just like their dad.
- Little girls spit anywhere openly without shame just like their mum.
- Little girls throw the kitchen bin anywhere just like their aunt.
- Young mothers throw baby diapers anyhow and anywhere just like their mum.
- Young children sweep their immediate surroundings and throw the dirt towards their neighbours’ yard just like their maid.
- Children throw any unwanted things in the drainages just like their mum
- Children squat anywhere even in the middle of the road to sell their merchandise in the name of making a living just like their grandmother
CHASED FROM SCHOOL
A number of schools which were closed down due to the Cholera Epidemic have since been opened and classes are going on well.
Unfortunately, in some schools, children who come from areas which were declared as cholera infested, were being sent back home.
Why was this done? I am very sure that the school authorities were not just being discriminatory but were exercising caution on prevention of cross infection just in case one child has cholera germs on his uniform or school bag. I know it’s not funny.
If we had all been a little bit more careful with our environment, the Cholera germs would have had no chance to multiply and no one would have gotten sick to the extent of having a place declared as a Cholera Zone.
It follows that no child will have been sent away from school. I know that some people are tempted to think that missing school for a week or a few days has no effect on the children.
Even missing school for one hour has a negative effect on children hence the encouragement of catch up activities.
A LIGHT MOMENT
I looked at a sad but hilarious cartoon in one daily tabloid depicting a school authority figure literally throwing out a child from the classroom with the caption, “You are from the epicentre!” Hilarious as it was, the cartoon made me really sad!
The innocent little children are suffering because of our carelessness. A number of school children have been affected by the avoidable Cholera Epidemic.
EFFECTS OF BEING THROWN OUT
The young and innocent pupils who were sent back home from school on account of where they are coming from will live to remember this unfortunate event.
As I said earlier, the school authorities were only trying to avoid or prevent cross infections although this was seen as an infringement of the affected children’s rights.
The affected children will have it at the back of their mind that they were victims of the adults’ carelessness.
The affected children felt rejected and unwanted just like the lepers in the Old Testament passages of the Bible.
The children wondered whether they were infected by cholera or whether they were carriers of the cholera causing germs and these children must have felt very dirty and embarrassed.
Deep-rooted rejection can have an effect on the self esteem of the affected children and this in turn is likely to affect their academic performance.
In terms of their social life, the children may have lost a few friends and this is degrading because friends are very important at this stage of development.
I can imagine a situation in a classroom where fear and discomfort is prevalent because a child from the epicentre has been allowed to come back to school.
These fears are genuine and should not be underrated. It’s up to the school authority to observe these children who were sent back when they return to give appropriate counselling. We wouldn’t want the effects of rejection to be carried on into adult life.
WHO IS TO BLAME?
I cannot even blame the schools that were sending back children who were coming from the Cholera Zone.
But who should I blame? No one I guess. The whole country just needs an overhaul of the way we think, act and relate to each other in connection with our environment.
Please read about the creation in the Bible in Genesis. God said that whatever he created was good and he entrusted everything unto man’s hands but we have failed to take care of our environment.
DID YOU NOTICE ANYTHING?
During the peak of the Cholera Epidemic, it was mostly the high density areas that were affected.
This is not to say that the inhabitants of high density areas are to blame, not really.
It could be that some of them have no space for building a proper toilet and when they do it is mostly a pit latrine which may be not far away from a shallow well where they drink water from posing a danger of contamination.
It could also be that the young mothers in charge of cooking and cleaning missed out on proper education due to early marriage, but they are not to blame because of ignorance, however, common sense should prevail.
- If only we had guarded against and arrested Rural Urban migration
- If only we had provided safe clean drinking water to everyone
- If only we had at least one proper toilet per family
- If only we had regular and less capitalistic garbage collectors
- If only we had equitably connected all areas to the national grid in terms of electricity
- If only we had space in all our backyards to bury bio-degradable materials
- If only we had space in all our backyards for a small vegetable garden
- If only we all had access to water for a small lawn and flowers on our small yard
- If only we had educated ALL women up to at least grade 9 level
- If only………….and the list goes on
THERE IS POWER IN THE MIND OF CHILDREN
As I have already stated, children learn by observation and imitation. If we have anything constructive to do or say, let our children observe and imitate us.
If this is the case we could use role models in schools (early learning) to avail deliberate opportunities for imitation.
For example, a classroom could have 2 trash bins, one for things which can decompose and the other for things which cannot decompose.
At home time, the role model goes to empty the two trash bins appropriately in full view of the little ones.
Even without using any words the little children will slowly learn that throwing things in a tied plastic bag will delay proper decomposition and will upset the balance of nature.
The school environment itself is a powerful silent lesson for the children. Do you remember when you were young that you took teacher’s advice as supreme? There was the famous phrase, “Teacher said…..”
Children usually listen and believe whatever teacher says. I have come across a child who would literally shed tears when parents went against what his teacher said.
Stakeholders can therefore take this chance to use schools as a way of sending the right messages concerning our environment to parents who may have missed out on basic education in terms of environmental hygiene and so on.
For example a simple instruction through school children to parents can go like this: when burying rotten vegetables like outer cabbage covers and tomatoes, remove them from plastic bag because the plastic bag will not decompose but the rotten tomato is biodegradable and is harmless when covered by the soil.
If however the plastic bag is tied and buried, biodegradation takes long and one is not doing justice to the soil.
All parents and guardians should know that whatever they are doing to the environment is being watched by children and will soon be imitated.
Lack of formal education should not be used as an excuse to litter the environment.
Let common sense prevail that drainages are meant for water to flow and not to house waste materials.