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Articles on political and social issues in Cameroon, Africa and the world as seen by Njei Moses Timah > The Other Child (Africa)

2 Sep 2004



            Many of us have either grown up in homes with children other than those of our parents’ or we have ourselves been brought up as visiting children in other homes. Some of us are currently bringing up children who are not our biological offspring. If you reflect on your past, you will readily see how fairly or differently you were treated as a visiting child or how other visiting children were treated in your home. There are a few homes where some fair play exists but there are many others where the treatment of the ‘other child’ is problematic.

            In some homes, the discrimination against the ‘other child’ is overt. The child virtually wears rags, sleeps on a less comfortable bed, and eats food without meat or a very small piece of meat. He or she may not sit on the sofa, may not eat on the table with the ‘authentic’ children but is required to clear the table when those children finish eating. The ‘other child’ gets to bed last and gets up first. If the biological child breaks a drinking cup it is considered an accident, but if the ‘other child’ breaks the cup it becomes a crime. This child must endure insults and sometimes battering from the guardian and even from the other children. Since most of these children come from less privileged homes, they are constantly reminded of their wretched background. If you stand in front of a church house on a festive day like Christmas, you will observe some interesting aspects of the above discussion. It is common to see parents alight from a car with children that you can determine at a glance those that are their biological children and those that are not. Some distinguish their children with uniform clothes. Others distinguish the ‘other child’ with ‘okrika’ clothes and shoes. The spectacle is quite embarrassing especially when they are moving into a church house.

            Based on my personal observation, it appears most of the discrimination against visiting children is orchestrated by women aided by the usual hands off attitude of men. Most men abandon the task of looking after the general welfare of children to their wives and in the process fail to notice the seeds of ‘apartheid’ that are blossoming in their homes. Women, by nature are more emotional than men. The emotional attachment of mother to child is usually stronger than that of father to child. It becomes understandable why most women are less likely to treat the ‘other child’ the same way they will treat theirs. Some women may term me a male chauvinist but these are realities that we live with and it needs courage (which most of us lack) to admit the truth.

            One interesting thing with children is that they have a very retentive memory. They will recall the good or bad things done to them several decades later. All of us can remember the adults who were kind and those who were mean to us as children. Talk to any of them about their past kindness and you will notice how excited and elated they will be. On the contrary if you remind somebody of his past meanness especially if you are successful in life, the person becomes embarrassed, scared and filled with guilt. The temptation to give your own child preferential treatment is always strong. It is a natural instinct. You need an extra effort to strike a balance between the love for your child and the need to ensure that fair play exists in your home.


Copyrightã2004 by Njei Moses Timah



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