My Pride: Raising the New African

My Pride: Raising the New African

Written by Isaiah, HHFL’s IT, Communications and Admin Manager

Sometimes we take it for granted that children grow the same way no matter where in the world we come from.

I personally have not travelled much, but I think there are likely a lot of similarities in the way children grow up. But I know there are differences depending on where they are, what is around them, and their communities’ beliefs and customs.

I am yet to be a family man, and I am so looking forward to be one – to get a chance to walk with a child from birth to their maturity.

However, for more than 5 years, I have been interacting with the children at HHFL, and when I  reflect both on these childhoods and back on my childhood, I have a few things to share.

In most African societies, a newborn and an infant belongs to the mother. It is considered her responsibility to breastfeed and weans the newborn and thereafter give the first schooling to the toddler – from language, to little responsibilities and so on until they reach school age.

A big number of African fathers stay absent from their children’s upbringing, regrettably.

As said above, a child is expected to learn their first language from their mom, and in most cases is the mother’s vernacular – with Kenya having about 43 different dialects. This is before they start crawling and walking where they meet other children from the neighbourhoods.

Things are changing here just like in most parts of the world where regions are becoming more metropolitan. It is therefore unlikely to find only one ethnic group living in one place. The kids therefore have to use a common language, and in most cases that is broken Swahili mixed with corruptions of their vernacular into their ‘Swahili’.

School age brings lots of stuff into the kids’ lives. Here, they learn how to be under the teachers’ watch, meet more new friends, learn new habits and grow a great deal in their intellect.

Besides books, play is very key. There are lots of interesting African based child play activities, including soccer with a ball made of a bundle of plastic bags carefully woven with nylon/sisal strings. It only takes the most crafty kid to make the best soccer ball, and this is done by boys.

Common games amongst girls is skipping rope, hoop, and some pebbles game called “mawe”. These days it ain’t usual to come across a girls’ and boys’ mixed soccer game! The most interesting thing about play in Africa is that’s is always done with readily available materials. Nothing is store bought.

During this age, African kids are also taught household chores. Boys from the countryside are taught how to tender livestock, fetch water and go the farm. Girls are taught how to cook, clean the house and utensils, feed their younger siblings, fetch water and go to the farm. It is not much different to those living in urban/suburban areas.

The end of primary school at around age 14/15 comes with its share of happenings.

Few proceed to high school, many drop out due to lack of a sustainable livelihood that can spare money for high school fees. A number of girls get married off after both boys and girls undergo initiation ceremonies. Sadly, a number of communities in Kenya still consider such a rite of passage.

The HHFL kids are in a safe haven. Here they are given an environment that allows them to discover their inner selves, develop trust and also learn important life skills.

We also allow them time to be with either their single parents, guardians or distant relatives so they may learn what it takes to be part of an ideal family. This is very important in helping them learn how to live with others once their time at HHFL is over.

During the four high school years, children are expected to exhibit more maturity. The majority of primary school children attend day school hence under close watch of their parents or guardians, while high school kids are in boarding schools where they have to make more independent decisions on what to do with their time.

In a year, it is likely for a student to spend less than 3 months at home. The number of high school children who proceed to post secondary shrinks down significantly with the majority of girls ending up in early marriages.

Young men either seeking casual jobs, joining gangs and drugs circles, or just being idle. Those that are lucky enough to proceed into college or university for 1,2, 3 or 4yr courses have entirely upon themselves to manage their lives, and it only takes a well brought up kid to survive and successfully complete their studies that are a pre-requisite for their first professional career.

Over the years, we have endeavoured to give the HHFL kids the best foundation to prepare them for this eventuality right from the start, and today we proudly speak of over 30 kids who are now self-reliant after completing a full cycle education. It’s an astounding accomplishment.

I am honoured and humbled to be an important witness to every HHFL child’s childhood and their dreams.

I can’t tell you how proud I am to be helping to raise a new crop of healthy, happy, confident, respectful, responsible and productive Africans.

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