What is the difference between a sparkly pencil case and none? Money! Or a parent who considers a pencil case to be a colossal waste of money. From a young age we can tell the haves and have-nots. The popular kid with all the bread spreads, Montblancs, a fresh pair of shoes and branded shopping. Then there’s their peer in their old, tired uniform, worn-out shoes, bic pens in one colour and a multipurpose-use bar of soap.
Even if you aren’t in boarding school, you can spot the indicators from the child with the latest backpack to the one carrying books in a recyclable bag. These are the physical economic indicators among children. It’s through no fault of their own that parents can or cannot afford to buy them the fanciest of everything.
Despite this seeming obvious, children have been bullied by their peers who make spiteful remarks, not quite comprehending why they lack what they have. You would think a school uniform closes the economic gap, but not quite. A school uniform is one of the biggest socio-economic disguise. All students look the same, yet they are vastly different. With bullying comes social exclusion because the have-nots don’t cut it for this social circle.
Children are unaware bullying has negative connotations on their school mates, but teachers should certainly be clued up. Yet teachers are just as aloof. If a student is constantly late, instead of swiftly making a comparison with on-time Tim, how about inquiring why? That student might have walked for an hour compared to their peer who was dropped off at the school gate.
This in no way calls for leniency on the student, but ignoring their economic constraints is not nurturing them either. So the same student has a uniform that does not conform to the school standards; perhaps that’s all the parent could scrounge up.
Comparing him to the most pristine student in class won’t make the parents or guardians buy a new uniform when they cannot afford it. And so, there is little point in making an example of an innocent child.
Beyond school, child poverty flows to the social sphere. In this technology-filled world, the latest Oxford maths set is not the greatest of envy— gadgets are. But unbeknown to children, Ken may not have a kabambe, let alone an iPhone X, because there is no money for it.
The choices are Ken gets a meal or goes to bed hungry. Then there are those who have birthday parties and those who attend the said parties. Some will bring presents, others will bring presence. In social gatherings children can make the most cutting, embarrassing comments to their peers; it hurts. This pain can be avoided by parents teaching their children to be socially aware.
Alas, because the embarrassment wasn’t enough, schools want children to relive these moments in the composition, ‘What I did during my holiday.’ The goal is to practice grammar and writing skills, but we all could do without hearing from Judy who went to Dubai for Easter.
Child poverty is not caused by any child. No child chooses their parents either. Shaming and belittling children because of their economic conditions is one of the most hurtful experiences anyone can endure. Be kind to those who have little today, tomorrow they may have what you need most.
The writer focuses on children’s issues; [email protected]