Learning from Childhood Dreams

Published on 19th December 2006

I remember a toy car I used to play with when I was young. It was labeled “made in Japan”. The car was greatly admired by my friends who had cars made of wood and wire. The main question that bogged my mind was how the toy was made and by who. All these questions were unanswered until recently when a friend said that the Japanese and Chinese children were the source of such simple inventions. In addition, radios, watches, torches were products of young Japanese and Chinese children.

One of them went ahead to say how the Japanese and Chinese children inherit a culture of hard work, creativity and production from their parents and the immediate environment. Not all Japanese and Chinese children who innovate such machines go to cities to do it. They do it even within their backyards. Japan and china are developed countries right from their backyards while Kenya and Africa still wish they would get a chance to get to the cities to realize their potential. The Peruvian economist Hernando De Soto estimated that Africa holds up to USD 0.39 trillion in wealth in rural areas and USD 0.58 trillion in untapped informal capital. The above is held in both human and natural resources that is unrealized. 

The developed world views its people, irrespective of age, as an investment without which they can fail. Heavy investment is put in the young minds in the developed world. The youth are given a favorable environment for the full realization and utilization of their potential and above all, the freedom to be what they want to be and where they comfortably fit. 

The recent visit by an Australian Preacher and motivator, Nick Vijic, born without hands and limbs is one key indicator of the developed world’s interest in its own population. Even though he was born impaired, the environment around him  has respect for what lies in him. To the developed world, everyone is capital worth investing in.

During dictator Idi Amin's (former president of Uganda) reign, the disabled were packed  like waste and thrown into river Nile. His aim was to rid the streets of Uganda of beggars. All this is still happening in Africa today. African societies are wasting this wealth when they turn deaf ears to their own people. One can imagine how much could have been realized if Amin had given the disabled people he threw into the sea a chance and a better environment. 

Kenyan children, at a tender age innovate vehicles first from clay, then wood and finally  wires. They do not make the simple vehicles from what they beg from their parents but from what they collect from garbage. They use what they see around them, not what they have not seen. They make use of what they have, not what they wish they had. When such an attitude is encouraged as the children grow up, the result is not a society of beggars but that of producers and givers.

Africa's great population, right from the young to the old, the physically fit and the disabled is not a curse but a key resource. I believe the developed world stands firmly on the dreams of young children, and the simple innovation of a toy.

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