Saturday, 27 February 2010

Daily Life of Children

One of our link schools is investigating the daily life of children in south Sudan. We thought this information might be of general interest.
As in Britain children come from different backgrounds and different homes. A lot will still live in tukuls (small round thatched hut with mud walls), or houses a little bigger with more than one room, but built on the same lines. Life is mostly lived out of doors. People even bring their beds outside when it is especially hot. Young children will probably not have individual beds but share with siblings. People are being encouraged to sleep under mosquito nets but by no means all children do, and children under five are especially susceptible to malaria. Three is a small family - five or six is more common. A single child is very rare.
A lot would not have any electricity in their homes. They would use oil lamps and candles. A few would have more sophisticated homes with fridges and TV, but the majority of people in this income bracket send their children to school in Kenya and Uganda where they can buy a better education.
Many children don't go to school at all. Either because their family can't afford the fees, or because their parents have not gone to school themselves and don't value education. A big problem in the outlying areas is trying persuade parents that education is a good thing - especially for girls. Children of six or seven, or even younger, regularly take care of younger siblings and help with household jobs. Girls help with preparing food and cooking. Both boys and girls help to carry water. In Juba they would not have far to go for a communal pump, but in country areas they may have a longer walk. In country areas boys would also gather wood for fires, but this isn't possible in the town where they mostly cook using charcoal burners.
The flattened dusty earth around the outside of a house is normally swept daily to prevent vegetation that would harbour insects. Children help with this. You also see children sweeping the school grounds in the morning before school starts.
There are hardly any toys. Children play with old bicycle tires and sticks (as in the Victorian pictures of children with hoops). They tie string to cardboard boxes and pull them around as 'cars'. They do have footballs, but if they don't they have substitutes like a tightly rolled ball of cloth or a tin can. At lot follow English football teams. They have all heard of Man Utd, Arsenal, Liverpool or Chelsea and a football shirt is a prize possession. I have seen children skipping with a long rope in the playground. They make up their own chasing and hide and seek games much as children do anywhere.
Most people keep very clean despite the lack of facilities. They would bath in a bowl of cold water (of course this is not as cold as cold water in England, especially if it comes from a tank that has been standing in the sun). Washing of clothes is done outside and hung on any available fence to dry. Most children are well turned out and keep themselves remarkably clean despite the dust.
Very few homes would have books. (Most primary schools don't have books!). Mobile phones and radios are common. You can live in a tukul with no facilities but have a mobile phone. Not many primary school children would have their own though.
Children walk around and roam the streets in a way that would not be considered safe in England. "Health and Safety" is pretty much non existent.
Most children seem to enjoy singing. A lot of children attend Sunday School, where learning songs to perform in the church in front of the adults is a major activity. They do rhythmic dances to these songs.
There is not much entertainment. Children on the whole seem to be much more patient and do not expect to be entertained. It amazes me how quietly toddlers sit through a two hour service. It is quite disturbing really. They are used to not being stimulated. On the whole children appear happy. They laugh and smile a lot.
Incidentally there are no prams or buggies. Babies are carried on the mothers' backs tied by shawls.
Food in the Juba area consists of a lot of carbohydrate - cassava, sorghum, maize, sweet potato and rice. They keep goats and chickens so on special occasions there is meat to eat or milk to drink. They also grow green vegetables but these do not form a substantial part of the diet. Fruit is available and can be grown locally but it is not eaten very much. Traditionally food is eaten with the fingers and mostly still is, although cutlery is appearing in the better off families. To eat from a communal dish is also quite common.
Sweets are available but expensive and a rare treat. Chocolate is impractical because of the heat and I have never seen a packet of crisps here. Ask your children if they can imagine life without without chocolate of crisps!

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