Monday, May 23, 2011

The Death Of Childhood, And The Culprits

When I first moved here in 2008, I worried about how my daughter would make it to school now that we had moved further away from her school. I inquired from the school my daughter attended about the pick up times for her. I was told she has to be at the road by latest 6 am for the school bus to pick her up. My calculation told me that this meant she has to be up by latest 5.30 am. Now, I am in my 30s but waking up at that time is a great challenge to me, so what about a 5 year old kid? I promptly withdrew her from that school and now she wakes up at around 7 am in order to be in school by 8 am. Actually it takes her 5 minutes to walk to school.

But if you wake up by 5 am, you will see hordes of kids at the gate waiting for the school bus. And I am talking about kids as young as 5 or 6 year olds! I find it totally unacceptable that kids that young should be subject to such 'torture'. Most of these kids get back home late in the evening, so in other words, they operate like working adults. When I was growing up, we began school at about 7 years old (we did not have stuff like baby class back then!) and most kids went to a school just around the corner. In fact we could count the kids who needed to take a bus to school as they were very few, but today the ones who school nearby are the exception (I am talking about mostly middle class Nairobi). Most of the time, both the kids and parents are too tired in the evening to engage in any meaningful activities to build their relationships. There is no difference between these kids and the adults that wake up at the same time to go to work.

I read something interesting about television and childhood as well (John Corry, My Times).
"Western civilization took centuries to develop the idea of childhood. But television has erased it in a few decades.

What a child once learned through reading was roughly commensurate with his ability to process the information. In the television age, however, we all get the same messages. A child of five and an adult of 40 can see the same images and hear the same words simply by pushing a button.

It shows in our behaviour. Children and adults now dress alike, talk alike and play the same games. The concept of childhood is vanishing."

My verdict is that this type of competitive schooling (mass factory schooling?) and television (mass media?) is denying the kids their childhood.


  1. Now thats an interesting debate - its my opinion that adults remain childlike for longer ... unable to make adult decisons and take responsibilty for their actions.

    I am glad you decided to change your daughters school - that sort of travelling time sounds outrageous.

  2. Eric.ochieng'May 24, 2011 at 5:48 PM

    Well I still dont av a kid but whenever am in Nairobi on one of my many trips @ my employers expense, I see loads of kids literally sleeping inside their school bus...N am lost for words, its already hard enough being adult in that town, I guess its even harder being a kid.

  3. Eric, it is a depressing sight! Looks like being a kid is becoming harder than being an adult?
    Jane, it is indeed outrageous that we make kids travel for over an hour to school in crazy traffic jams!

  4. I almost homeschooled my kid in the beginning because I could not imagine him having to wake up at those ungodly hours to go to school! It is totally unacceptable that a child should go to school at such hours and get home at even worse hours! That is what I consider upbringing by absconding. I look at how we grew up and I pity our children, but what can we do? Try our best I suppose...

  5. Otieno - I agree completely. I hate to see kids - especially young girls dressing up like adults. Worse still are the talent contests that make them sing and dance like the movies - we have loads of them in India.

  6. Carol, I think one of the things we can do is discuss this publicly so that schools eventually get the message. Our schooling system still pretty much operates on 19th century colonial ideas and has refused to transform itself. In my opinion schools are actually doing more harm than good today but the problem is that we are not seeing alternatives.

  7. Corrine, I have seen some of those videos on you tube etc, makes me sick. I have seen kids dance to moves that even as an adult I would cringe at, while adults gladly cheer them on!

  8. This statement - When I was growing up,..... and most kids went to a school just around the corner. made me realize that you can never tell your kids what all of us were told growing up --I walked for 10 kms barefoot to go to school-- which made me wonder if there was any kid in our parents era who lived close to a school and why they built the schools so far from everybody.

    Our school system should be structured on working smart. Making kids get to school at 7am (after waking up at 5am) and leave at 5pm does not necessarily mean that they are being productive. Means we want them to pretend to be working hard. Which I did a lot when I ended up in class at 6.30am and had preps(are they still called that) till 10.30pm. I read Mills and Boon as the teacher sat there thinking I was reading on Polymers.

  9. Dark Angel, you are right. Spending more time in school does not necessarily equate to being more productive!

  10. Oh so true. We are grooming trouble with our kids. I guese with the changing lifestyle we also need to adapt new ways of ensuring that our children remain just that. Kids. Let us all not forget the memories we all hold dear of growing up as children and not kids aping unbecoming adult behaviour. My five pence.

  11. Tulip, I wonder whether our kids will have as interesting memories as we do, but again, the world is changing and what was good for us is not necessarily good for them!