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All children must be protected

That being the case, the Registrar of Births and Deaths may not log unreported deaths, especially those occurring in remote rural areas where both Birth and Death Certificates are virtually unknown. Today, I have my mind on safe childhood. It takes a good parent to keep a child healthy.

It is imperative to point out at the outset that the first eight years of childhood are critically important. However, it is the first three years that should be watched most. It is crucial to mention here that the initial three years are the foundation of future health, growth and development. During the first three years children learn much quicker than at any other time.

It is during this time that babies and young children grow up faster and develop mental faculties more rapidly. They need a lot of encouragement and mental stimulation during this crucial time. They should also be accorded more attention, love and affection, apart from being given nutritious meals and good health care. I must also point out at this juncture that a health or mental impairment at this stage in the life of a child is likely to be difficult to reverse.

In Tanzania, it is imperative that all children get registration at birth. This is a legal right for children. It is also imperative in this country that all children get good health care, nutrition and education. They should also be protected from all sorts of harm, abuse and discrimination. It is the duty of parents, caregivers and the state to ensure that all these basic rights for children are respected, protected and fulfilled.

Care and affection during the first years of life enable a child to thrive. For young infants, holding, cuddling and talking to them stimulates growth. Being kept close to the mother and breastfed on demand also provide the infant with a sense of security and promote a measure of emotional development. Parents should be aware that infants suckle for both nutrition and comfort. They also enjoy a sense of belonging.

Parents should also know that baby-boys and baby girls have similar physical, mental, emotional, nutritional and social needs. Both have the same capacity for learning. And both have the same need for affection, attention and approval. Some tribal settings think baby-girls are socially inferior. Crying is a young child’s way of communicating his or her needs.

Responding promptly to the child’s cry by holding and talking soothingly to him or her will help establish a sense of trust and security. A child may cry to express pain, fear, hunger, discomfort or even to demand attention. Children who are anaemic, malnourished or frequently sick may become fearful and upset more easily than healthy children and will lack the drive to play,
explore and interact with others.

These children need special attention and encouragement to suckle, eat or drink depending on age. Children’s emotions are real and can be powerful. Children may become frustrated if they are unable to do something or have something they want. By some quirk of nature, some children are often afraid of strangers, curious objects, animals or the dark. It is irrational on the part of adults to laugh at a child.

Children whose reactions are laughed at, punished or ignored may grow up shy and unable to express emotions normally. Parents should be patient when a child expresses strong emotions. Physical punishment or displays of violence can impair the child’s development. Children who are punished in anger are more likely to become violent themselves during adulthood. Clear explanation about what to do and firm rules about what not to do should suffice.

I am often disappointed by the cruelty some parents mete out to their children. Too much scolding and lashes of the cane impair children’s development. Some ruthless mothers even nip their young infants who cry to express their feelings. This is arrant injustice to the child. Children need encouragement and should be praised and even rewarded for good behaviour. This is an effective way of grooming children into achieving their full potential.

Behavioral problems in adulthood often stem from bad upbringing. Even dullness at school hinges on poor upbringing. Both parents, as well as other family members, need to be closely involved in caring for children. In some communities this noble task is often left to the mother and older children in the family. I find the father’s role equally important. Fathers should not stay aloof in child rearing. Children need love, affection and stimulation from their father as well.

A child normally shrinks from strangers or even from a father who keeps aloof. Fathers are often the key breadwinners. They should, hence, make sure children receive good quality education, nutrition and health care. The father must also ensure that the environment is safe and free of violence. They should also perform household tasks, particularly when the mother is pregnant, sick or breastfeeding.

It is no longer fashionable for men to shun household chores. It is time for all-round cultural change. Children learn quickly when they feel loved and secure and when they frequently play and interact with family members. Children who feel secure usually do better in school and cope more easily with the difficulties of life.

Good upbringing prepares children to tackle the challenges of living. The most important way children develop and learn is through interaction with others. The more often parents and caregivers talk and respond to the child, the quicker he or she learns. Parents or caregivers should talk, read or sing to infants and young children.

spmwita@yahoo.com Phone: 0787 44 66 22

LAST week, following the inauguration of the newlyelected ...

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Author: SOSTHENES PAULO MWITA

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