Sunday, 3 February 2013

Heavy Responsibilities

I met these two little girls at the Bong Ngo Festival. They were selling water sachets from this box. I have included the photograph because it reminds me of the continual need for drinking water and the tender ages of children carrying out essential tasks.

Girls learn very young that there are jobs to be done and they have responsibilities each morning. When you see a four year old sweeping with a short African broom you can tell she has been taught how to do it well. Three year olds already carry very small items on their heads as early training for a lifetime of transporting heavy bowls of water and long unwieldy bundles of firewood. These tasks are carried out before school and early evening. The boys spend time collecting animals that have strayed and using short hoes on farms to sow and weed throughout the growing season. Chores have to done and the children are extremely efficient. They have to be. There are no labour saving devices here and producing meals involves ALL available hands being “on deck”! When all the children are doing this work, it is the norm for them, what they expect. There isn’t a great deal for them to do in terms of leisure activities so there are not too many distractions.

These little girls have been sent to sell water sachets at the equivalent of 3p for 500mls. Thousands of children will be doing this around the country. They must make precious little profit but it is an essential service. Despite the poor quality of mathematics teaching in schools, they have no problem taking money and dispensing correct change!

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