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Opinions of Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Columnist: Georgina Asare Fiagbenu

If I were to advocate better child care

Children are so sweet. They can be bold and courageous – just imagine the fact that they can go close to things adults fear and sometimes they climb things that we cannot easily climb.

In spite of these escapades, they are so feeble and they have to be protected and cared for.

The fact is they are still children and rely on adults for their very existence.

Depending on the age, a child can just tread anywhere or befriend anyone without any fear of the consequences.

They are feeble and yet so daring.

Imagine a child walking up to the Pope whilst preaching and going to sit on his chair. What impudence, some would say. If it was an adult who did that people would think he was crazy, arrogant or simply cheeky. When a child does it, he is seen as bold, sweet and adventurous.

This week I saw three videos involving the Pope and some children and the videos just touched me.

Foreign media reported that the Pope engaged children in the neighborhood and during a question and answer session, a child, who was supposed to ask a question just stood, hesitated and walked up to the Pope.

It appeared the child was struggling with what he was going to say. He went close and whispered to the Pope and they had a tete-a-tete for a few minutes. With the permission of the boy, the Pope shared what the child’s question was. He wanted to know if his father, an atheist, would go to heaven when he dies, having baptized his children. What a tricky question? The child was very emotional. He couldn’t bear the thought of his father burning in hell. The Pope was very assuring and his answer was comforting.

When I saw the video I was very touched and this led me to watch three more videos that touched me even more deeply. One video showed the testimony of a parent whose child was suffering from Down syndrome and two holes in her heart was kissed by the Pope.

They later saw that one of the holes got sealed miraculously after the encounter. Another set of parents also travelled to the Vatican and wanted to see the Pope because it was their desire for their baby to be touched by him. And guess what, their dream came true. Their baby who had a brain tumor was picked and given to the Pope who kissed the baby on the back of his head. The parents were ecstatic. They saw this as a sign of blessing and indeed the baby who was not expected to see her first birthday crossed it at the time the video was posted. Again, the last one I watched showed a three-year-old girl who was being hugged by the Pope stretched her hand and remove his skull cap. It is only a child who can do this and be pardoned. I just love the way Pope Francis interacts with children. It’s divine.

Most importantly, it’s also amazing to see parents go through many hurdles to give their children the best. Some parents go all out for their children but others are negligent. All over the world, countries have put laws in place to protect the rights of children because of their fragility.

The reasons why children have to be protected and given the best of care is not far-fetched. They are the future of every society. It’s painfully surprising that as a result of poverty and perhaps ignorance, some parents leave their children without proper care.

Most parents take good care of their children and that is what is expected of them, but some do not. Sometimes I feel sick when I see three to five year olds on their own crossing a major road, walking to school or playing by the road side unattended.

I know there are laws against child neglect in Ghana but perhaps because they are not enforced properly some do not care.

In the western world, parents and guardians lose their rights to live with their children when they don’t give them the necessary care and expose them to danger. There are many reports about children who were taken from their parents because the government felt they were not safe in their homes.

In Ghana, what do we see? The issue of child neglect and abandonment is not a topic that startles relevant authorities. We often hear horrendous stories of children, who have been abused, raped, beaten, locked up, starved or subjected to various forms of torture. I have heard stories of children getting locked up in abandoned cars and suffocating to death, with the latest one being a reckless grandfather, whose gun was used by a boy to kill his brother. Some of these stories send chills down your spine. We also hear parents who leave their children all by themselves because they do not have a caregiver and have to work. That is a difficult place to be in. The issue is economic exploits and career development is still not an excuse for child neglect.

We must work but we must also keep an eye on our children and see beyond the economic fortunes. We must listen to them and pay attention to their needs. Most of the time we are not listening and all we do is shout and scream when they do the wrong thing.

Most importantly, we must keep them in our hearts. Everyone will argue that their children are in their hearts but do we always prioritize things related to them and do we factor them in our plans? Does a decision to take on a new job or pursue a new programme considered because it will also be in the best interest of our children? No, some take decisions without considering its impact on their children.

Children are children and as long as they are children they will continue to act and behave in ways that may sometimes seem irrational but that is who they are.

The good thing is that they won’t always be children. They will grow quickly and before we know it they are adults. Children deserve the best from adults.