If you want to know a society, look at how it treats its children

Saturday June 24 2023

Children studying during a class in Angaza school, Lindi, Tanzania. PHOTO | AFP


Sometimes, by which I mean every day, I like to watch the slow burn of the US over social issues.

Everything, from the housing crisis to Wall Street bailouts to whether they are hiding alien ships. America does not disappoint, except when it does.

But the people? I imagine they are decent folk just trying to survive end-of-days capitalism, something that we do not suffer here yet. But there is one area in which all of this scares me.

My latest fascination has been Florida, which is notoriously dismantling so many elements of modern civilisation under its new governor that I am forced to consider my own society.

While it cannot claim the prize, it makes me think of the combination of guns, antivaxxers and schools. A terrible, American phenomenon. And I give thanks, again, that our problems are of a different nature.

Tanzania’s public education system is less than ideal for a number of reasons which, I believe, would be solved by money.


I am a reluctant taxpayer for good reason: Regimes overpay certain classes of public servants and use far too much money on motorcade fleets. But, if one was going to pry money from me it would be for the children.

Schools with feeding programmes, science laboratories, stocked libraries and sports fields as well as teachers who are compensated well.

Read: EYAKUZE: We need good social engineering to salvage our education system

Usually, I write about education in a critical manner, and that will not change. Over time I have learnt to give schools a bit of a break.

Children’s performance and welfare starts and ends at home — educational facilities can only do what they can for your children as best they can.

Many private schools in Tanzania convince the parents that they can raise their children for them: the one thing that cannot be delegated. Many parents hope that this is true: the fantasy that helps them abdicate responsibility.

Dangerous ideas. At the end of the day, a child’s home environment and especially the love and attention they get, will make all the difference.

Public schools do not indulge this level of nonsense for the parents or anyone. The mechanical nature of government-mandated attendance, no matter what happens, is unfettered.

It is harsh, often uncaring and just another necessity. The outcomes are not what one might wish, but we aren’t alone. Many countries suffer this, and yet here we are surviving against strong odds. If we leave out the antiquated practice of corporal punishment.

Read: EYAKUZE: You can’t beat knowledge into children; invest in them instead

Really, I am looking at this from a question of “what is development?” I thought I knew until corona hit us and all certainty about humanity’s inevitable march into a glorious future left us.

The saying goes that if we you want to know what a society is, look to how it treats its most vulnerable and its children. I may have been guilty, looking Westward for inspiration, but now I look in that direction for lessons and omens.

I don’t know what the future holds — who does? But I do think that I might have gained an appreciation for whatever it is we are trying to do here, burdened with poverty, and for the most part remembering to human first and think of money as a factor of life, not its definition. For the children.

Elsie Eyakuze is an independent consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report; Email [email protected]