I grew up in my childhood neighborhood and not just in our home; as simple as that. For the first 7 years of my life, I grew up going into different homes and learning all kinds of stuffs some of which shaped my life today. Back then, it was very safe for children to gather out and play all they wanted/needed, and eat in any home and some of us were only fished by our mums in whichever home we were at 6 pm.
Today, I am once more living in such a neighborhood and my home is one of those homes the neighborhood kids gather in to learn, play and get the hugs or candy they want/need.
When I moved here in 2016, an alarming problem was the beating of children by their parents in a scary way. One day a child ran into my home bleeding, probably knew they would find refuge here. I don't beat like that or rarely even beat, and my last son who took that gene from me of 'galivanting the neighborhood' (to the point of being called 'chef du quartier' - something like the head of the neighborhood), is ever jovial and joyful, running to hug me on my return instead of hide out of fear. So that day, when that child came in, I hugged them, cleaned them up, made a cup of hot chocolate for them, and tugged them in my own bed to sleep.
I waited for their mother to come looking for them. She came by 7 pm, fuming and shouting their name. I asked her to sit down and explain to me what they were teaching their child by their attitude. She thought that wasn't important and it was the dad who beat the child afterall. What did she do while he beat the child? She was a silent observer. What did the child do to get that? He didn't come back home directly from school and stopped by a friend's to play. Ah, I told that mother if I had to beat up my last son for that attitude too, I would have probably finished him by now. That I was instead making it more appealing for him to come back home straight from school, even if he went out to play later.
Another neighbour got me storming their home, telling them I was calling the police on them and accusing them of child abuse.
My reputation as their advocate grew. They are all my children and they love coming over. Indeed, when I return from work, those who see me from a distance run to hug me. I have talked to our neighborhood gathering about sexual abuse and was told about a case of incest. I told them educating a child starts from home. Formal school can only do so much, and what they learn at home could even make them love or loathe going to school in the first place.
And so, on this special day to celebrate the African Child, I celebrate all the Angels in my neighborhood I am blessed to host ever so often. They come for various reasons. To learn on the big blackboard, to play in serenity, to get a candy or food, to tell me about their night like my bestie Ange Raphael does almost every morning.
Let's reflect on this day as parents (especially in Africa), what education we give our children at home to complement what they get in formal school.
I look forward to speaking on the need to listen to our children come the 22nd at an event organized by an organisation called 'Save a Child Cameroon'. Gone are the days when it was popularly said "children should only be seen not heard". How can we even educate them without listening to them too?