Happy the good old days of our childhood

Tony Zakaria

WHAT kind of childhood are children experiencing these days? They have a lot of the basic needs. Quite a sizable proportion of children in urban areas have not just the basic needs but many extras.

Are they happy? I cannot be sure. It seems the more they are given the more they want. And have no genuine appreciation for the value of what they are given. They have no gratitude for the effort or cost involved.

This hit me recently when I noticed grandchildren demanding to watch cartoons on TV and when an adult already said no cartoons. They were visibly annoyed.

As if someone had taken their cookiejar and thrown it to pigs wallowing in the mud. In our time, ventilated houses were a luxury. Schools were far and a long walk or run from home. We went to school barefoot but had a lot of love for each other.

I remember walking like a mile or so in the opposite direction to school every day just to pick my friend so we could walk to school together. We made our own toys and it was fun to play outside in nature. We kicked tennis balls, with our feet.

We were happy to share. I can’t believe we used to crack sweets and then share the pieces. We seldom had money. A dolly cost maybe five cents and yet few pupils could afford to buy it. So when you could buy one, you shared it. We shared clothing all the way to secondary school.

This was how we managed to look smart on social evening weekends. You borrowed John’s brown dancing shoes and Juma’s James Bond waist belt. And when you walked to the centre of the assembly hall for the opening dance with a Weruweru damsel in tow, you looked more dashing than Sean Connery in the movie From Russia with Love. The sorry specimens we are grooming these days want their own box of chocolates and three of biscuits.

Sharing is an alien attribute they don’t have. They guard their worldly possessions with more energy and diligence than some government officials guard official secrets. If a parent or sibling dares to borrow just one biscuit, there will be hell to pay. In the good old days when we were all kids from money-challenged families, we were happier. We were not healthier.

There were many diseases of childhood and poverty. But we treated each other with dignity and respect. Possessions did not make a child feels/he was better than others.

Actually, when you discovered you were the only one with shoes after Sunday church prayers, you took off your shoes so you can blend with the rest of kids. A child would instinctively feel the shoes were creating a wall between him and his mates.

Can you imagine the princes and princesses we have created in our homes taking off their designer shoes in order to be one with kids from ordinary families? They want to look unique and expensive, not common and cheap.

And if next week there are new trendy shoes in town, they want those too. What girl worth her weight in silver will want to miss out on good shoes? They are not just shoes you know.

They are a lifestyle statement. If you do not believe me, go play peeka- boo in your daughter’s room and check under the bed. There may be a few pairs of shoes she only wore for her form two parents visiting week.

I am not sure what boys covet these days. Maybe they keep a collection of game consoles of different brands such as Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony. In our time going to secondary school was a privilege, thus every school was special and unique in its own way.

There were no special schools for talented kids. When Iringa girls visited Mkwawa boys for a once a month social evening dance, they did not feel they were dancing with royalty from St Andrew’s and St Mark’s college.

They were just fellow Tanzanian students from a nearby school. What happened to social evenings in secondary schools? I can assure you we did not have epidemics of teenage pregnancies because of social evenings.

Maybe since schools are mixed these days, there is no need for special evenings to bring them together. They socialise daily. Do students learn better in boys/girls mixed schools?

What are the pros and cons of co-ed schools? The one thing I remember is, our parents did not pamper us. Sometimes I think we were starved of manifestation of parental affection. We knew they cared but they had a strange way of showing it.

All we saw were strict disciplinarians who took no nonsense. And yet we came out okay. We respected parental authority which later translated to respect for higher authorities in school and at workplaces.

Many of us felt responsible for taking care of our extended families including our own parents. I do not see the same respect and caring attitude in our own offspring and their children. Where did we miss the boat in the teaching?

A parent or grandparent could be gasping for breath in the next room while generation X kids are completely absorbed in their smartphones, catching up on the latest selfie photos from friends and celebrities.

They care more about what Nicki Minaj wore recently than how grandma is doing after a bout of fever. Old time children would have been fretting over what bibi ate, and would happily cook and clean for her.

That was what family was about. It is okay to have WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram families to keep abreast of interesting comings and goings of the world. However, failing to love and cherish friends and family who we can visit, see and touch is tragic. Give me the good old days anytime.

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