Children

Your Dead Child’s (or Spouse’) Facebook

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Every piece of your life, can potentially be found on Facebook. Your child’s birth photos, from right in the womb, to their sweet 16th birthday are all there. Trips to Antigua and check-ins to the Mall, everything freely shared with that sneaky prompt, “What’s on your mind?”

And then, if you live in Kampala, as I do, chances are a boda-boda, or some other necessary evil, will take the life of your innocent child or spouse or parent or sibling.

Then… Whats on your mind? Well, why not review (and maybe even re-live) the online life of your dearly departed.

Not so fast – last week, a Berlin Court issued an order that barred parents of a deceased gal from obtaining access to her Facebook profile and its records. Facebook accounts, by their very nature, are personal. As this Reuters article notes, the secrecy of correspondence protects not just the child, but also the people who she spoke with, and their privacy must be protected.

The child’s Facebook account  must be a relic of sorts, and rightly so the parents probably want to lock this away or perhaps search it for their own closure. But the people she communicated with, if they are still alive, have their own right of communication privacy. Should familial curiosity override this? I am sure this was a difficult decision for the court to make, but I think their ruling is reasonable.

I remember growing up when dairies had not just yet been replaced by blogs that the given notion was: never read one that isn’t yours. If you are the parent of a young person, you know what it means to know less than 1% of their life. And that was when you lived on a ranch and wrote in diaries. In the information age, that life is spread thinner on at least 3 different social platforms, many of them allowing digital photography.

As a parent of a soon-to-become-teenager, I know that I should be involved in and educating their digital life. I don’t mean to be intrusive, but present. I need to know and be aware of online dangers and things like cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking, or abusive/dangerous/suspicious messages. I need to educate my kids about these dangers, and even advocate for such education/training in their schools. At home, of course it helps to create an environment of trust and dialogue where my children will feel comfortable telling me about their challenges.
On the other hand, when we go to a medical professional to better treat our ailments, sometimes we give up very personal details, stuff that might even be considered evil in the regular (or cultural) domain. One would argue that to this extent parents should consider entering into the privacy of our children in order to prescribe the best remedies.
I agree. Parents should be allowed to go into the privacy of their children precisely and only in a framework of prevention, counseling.
Well, what’s on your mind?

 

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Your Child Is Stupid, For Our School

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Last week, I interacted with a young bespectacled Kenyan girl – she is attending school in my neighbourhood, a proud P.7 candidate. Her testimony, was of being able to score above 95% in a couple of exams and 92% and 94% in the other 2 subjects. 

She was happy particularly because she felt that this set of mock exams, taken from another school, was harder than the set of exams of her own school. She went on to say, she would like God to give her wisdom to get the other 2 subjects above 95% because her teacher mentioned to her its the new passmark for getting a distinction. 

My jaw could not drop lower. She must be 13 or thereabout.

She went to narrate how her school takes pupils that do not score high grades to other schools for PLE. Apparently, Kampala based schools would like to maintain the impression of a perfect scores, so they offload pupils who are scoring 3rd and 4th grade marks to lower schools where they “fit” in the demographics. For these schools, these students will taint the scorecard, and cause their annual classification to dip when the UNEB comes reading the top 5 schools in each district. 

How and when did we get to the deep echelons of such selfishness? And why is the future generation of this country being made to feel that they are inadequate just because they will skew the scores?

Parents, you need to be wary of a school that has no children in 3rd and 4th grade listed on their P7 lists for the last 10 years, because as we all know, academic brilliance is a normal binomial distribution – there will be quartiles, on either extremes. 

I went to Kibuli Secondary School and i know that even the creme de la creme of post primary institutions, inspite of their very best selection efforts, still land, atleast in good time, students who cannot remain as good as their 4, 5 or 6 aggregates scored at PLE. 

What are we doing to our children? All these teachers who are clamouring for more, for themselves, when silently they are depriving our children of the right to fail – because as we know, and much later in life, failure is a much celebrated ingredient of success. Why do we make our children feel bad because they did not score 95%? 

Parents, why do you accept to live under the pressure to pay extra fees to one teacher, so your child can miss their rightful term holidays and weekends? Is it really true that this one teacher will make your child pass? And when that teacher gets hit by a boda boda? Then what, you will move on to pay the next teacher who promises your child a 4? 

Why would you expect this teacher to be doubly motivated to help a handful of children pass just because they pay an extra 100,000/= , and get to miss out on their weekends and holidays? If this is what the teacher needs, why don’t we work through the PTA (Parents’ and Teachers’ Association) to motivate all the teachers in the same school so that other children who cannot afford this can also benefit from such a teacher? After all, isn’t sharing caring?

I cry for the children who are moved from one stream to another, and one school to another, and eventually get knocked out of a school because their grades are considered not good enough by the very administration whose job is to increase their confidence and ability to tackle academic and life challenges. For these children, failure will always be a mark on their faces, painted by the system we pay.

I am sick to my stomach that we let such culture take root in our feeble education system. 

I am ashamed for the parents who walk out of the headteachers’ offices convinced that their children are not good enough to sit their final exams at a school they have patronised for the better part of 6 years. 

I am angry at the idea that you drive back home and find the words to package that hope shattering nonsense, and unwittingly become the postman for your child’s new found future – a future that says they are not good enough; at least not good enough to sit in the school they have sacrificed early morning for all their lives. 

This same school, when the results are out, will pay a premium fee to the press, for an advert that says they had 90% first grades, and the other 10% were second grades. They had no 3rd and 4th grades. Oh how conveniently magical!

Is it Time 2 Play?

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Yesterday, I drove to Time 2 Play, the gals could not have been more excited. A friend’s children were joining us and it was after a sumptuous sunday lunch. I was on when I arrived to check on the gals a second time just before 5pm.

I walked through the gate, unchecked. Completely. The guard who manned the entrance was deep in conversation on the phone when I strolled past him. There was no metal check not body frisking.

On a Sunday evening, Time 2 Play is teaming with typically 2 or 3 birthday parties. During the school holidays, it has a residential camp. During the school term, the facility runs a nursery school. There is a junior swimming pool and an adult pool. There are swings and sand pits.

I witnessed a young man run into another with a bicycle. The “riding track” is also the defacto separation between the sandpits and swings and the upper area where parties are held; along with the occasional costumed entertainers.

I was able to walk to the main building, unrestricted, observing one attendant between the main pool and the children’s pool which was visibly swamped. There is a Kitchen that was serving up french fries on the ground floor, there is no way that children could possibly be in class with the smell of a live kitchen right beneath.

I did not observe any CCTV between the rooms and the corridors, nor around the perimeter of the play spaces that have been created for the children. I find that the only way to identify a child is the arm band that is stuck to the arm of a subscribed child, 8000/- UGX per head.

I was able to walk right up to the second floor of the main building with no one having approached me to ask if I was looking for something in particular or if i was lost. This is when I started thinking…

  1. How may child minders should play spaces have? What is the ideal and practical ratio?
  2. What kind of child minder training and guidelines should be in the places where we expect to leave our children for a few hours?
  3. Can children of the different body mass and height access the same play spaces comfortably?
  4. Should it be mandatory that play spaces have video surveillance?
  5. What should the guidelines be for adults accessing child play spaces?
  6. Would Time 2 Play and other children play spaces do background checks on the child minders and care givers?
  7. In this terror filled era, how do we make sure that adults like me do not walk in and present a potential harm to the children?

As a parent, I know that when I take my children to play, it is time to play, but when the environments of the spaces we have created for our children to play are so visibly unsafe, I keep wondering, when it comes to their safety and future, is it time to play?