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Area 6 : News & Views


The longest journey starts with a single step .....................................................ancient Chinese proverb

Kathryn Watts reporting worldwide.

Article 2 [page 4 of Kathryn's pages]

Kathryn Watts reporting from the Far East, Africa and Vietnam on the development of children in these cultures, relating to lifestyle and education.

Discipline of children is an important aspect of their development, just as in any country, but here it is approached in a different way, which appears to be successful in cultures such as these. Privacy does not prevail as strongly in China as it does in England, because of the close knit community where people just seem to be coming and going all the time. Children are scolded in public; there is not much parent-child interaction, perhaps this is why the community seems more open. Children are playfully hit in order to teach them to "take punishment", and seriously hit to be punished. Parents are happy to see their child be naughty or mischievous, as in later life this translates to cleverness, the naughtiness being outgrown. Any petty theft carried out is believed to have been done by children, as adults would supposedly never do such things.

In East Africa punishment is an important part of a child's development. The mother in particular is responsible for character formation of the child. The belief that childhood behaviour is vital to later development is symbolised in a proverb: "That which is bent at the outset of its growth is almost impossible to straighten at a later age." Indeed, I cannot remember a time when a child was moaning about having to do something or crying unnecessarily for attention. The mentality of the children seems to differ, there are no spoilt children and no fussing by parents. Equality, and a lack of material things, which so often cause problems in our society, are two factors. Also the whole community spirit thing where everyone is into everything together, everyone playing a role towards one ultimate goal. Indeed, once the child understands, proper social behaviour should be directly taught. Obedience and respect appear to be extremely important things to possess in character.

The children in North East China are encouraged to memorise and recite classical Chinese poetry, relating to filial obedience, loyalty, human emotions and hospitality. Again a sense of respect is manifested in the teaching of children.

East Africans, like parents in England, value children greatly, but for different reasons. As a saying goes:

"He who has no child must get his legs to do it."

Firstly the economic potential, that one day the child will provide material support and channels of access for their families in later years. In this respect the appropriate education of the child has to be taken into consideration. In Africa the social group takes precedence over the individual. Parents in a sense have children for the group. Like our society the grandparents in East Africa play an effective role in parenting, in the "omwana"(child) stage.

Many proverbs and sayings are used in everyday situations to describe the joys of having children.:

"An only child is like a drop of rain in the dry season.", another is that:

" My luck is in the child of mine: if the child is rich."

Children then seem to possess an air of great importance, a gift which holds great advantages to the family in the long run, as well as being a source of pleasure to the parents.

The duties performed by the parents and the children clearly seem to have reciprocal efficiency. The children will look after the parents when they are elderly, they will produce grandchildren for them. Willingness to care for the elderly is also seen to guarantee one's own future care. In Angang a community in Taiwan rituals are performed to make sure that support is maintained in the next life. Public rituals often take place undertaken for the child's spiritual well being and their physical health, which are two fundamental indivisible things. Parents too come to find out about the fortunes of their children who may be attending a school elsewhere.

..... continued on page 5

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Your support is always welcomed for the Children's Charities in the Project HappyChild Directory - just click here for details of 80+ organizations.

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