What type of citizen do you get if you raise one in a trolley and another in a woman’s bosom? Whereas in Africa the most common health related billboards discuss issues such as HIV-AIDS, wealthy nations raise their own billboards on suicide issues. Newborn babies in high tech societies meet only the comfort of a trolley and feeding bottle. Children in Africa are quickly being denied the warmth of their mothers' bosom in the quest to facilitate women emancipation through economic empowerment.
Perhaps psychologists can help unravel the connection between trolley-bosom kids to development. The most common argument advanced by people from wealthy nations who visit Africa is the “happiness” exuded by poor people. Some parents from wealthy nations talk of “grown up children.” Africans point out the “coldness” in wealthy nations. Matters are made even worse for Africans when they have to stay in a hotel that is fully automated…one meets machines for services and electronic voices. People are simply too busy!
I remember a heated argument that took place in Greisfwald, a city in former East Germany: a Russian lady was pinning down a German professor on feminism. Her point… “Women in Russia have a responsibility to bring up children and they are proud of it.” When my professor friend argued against women oppression and discrimination, the Russian lady pointed out that a woman performing her biological duties has nothing to do with discrimination.
Norway has taken the lead in ensuring that women get maternity leave for over a year. In Kenya, discussion has focused on whether men too should get paternity leave. Privately though, career women hit the highway as soon as they deliver. House-helps or “yaya” are left with the responsibility of taking care of the future generation that is meant to position Africa in the 21st century. But how does this contribute to economic development?
While I appreciate the big and important role our unsung heroines (the yayas) play in the growth and development of our children in middle and upper class families, I doubt if they can help in preparing a generation that can meet the 2030 vision. It is another pointer of lack of strategic thinking in Kenya and by extension Africa, where we always expect miracles without seeking to work to achieve our dreams. Unless we take time to invest in the Kenyan people (children), it will be difficult for them to understand whatever vision we might articulate for the future.
Africans who import the “trolley babies” philosophy from wealthy nations ignore the fact that proper parenting led to prosperity whose negative consequence has been a society too busy to mind its future. Very soon, we might behold an upsurge of anti-suicide NGOs as opposed to the common poverty warriors! We ought to learn from the mistakes of wealthy nations and seek to invest heavily in our next generation if we have to claim the next century.
Parents ought to play their natural duty of preparing productive citizens for purposes of promoting prosperity on the continent. To our presidential candidates, what plans do you propose to put in place to ensure increased prosperity while avoiding the trolley babies? To academic moguls, what proposal do you have to promote the yaya industry for purposes of turning it into a useful tool in preparing the generation that will promote prosperity in Africa? Each of us urgently ought to rethink the baby industry in order to avoid an upsurge of crime among the youth, promote general knowledge on how the world works (that knowledge, vision and exertion lead to prosperity) and that our youth must grow up as very proud Africans.
This article was first published by Business Daily, a publication of Nation Media Group
By James Shikwati
Mr. Shikwati is the Director of Inter Region Economic Network
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