Responsibility for children

In East African societies, a child traditionally belonged to the community rather than to individual parents. Children, therefore, were a shared responsibility. This meant that many aspects of the child’s training and learning, including, for example, communication about sexual reproductive issues, were the responsibility not only of parents, but also of aunts, uncles and grandparents. However, with changes in familial settings and society today, raising children is more often the responsibility of parents alone. This can create challenges, as they are often too busy to have time for their children. There are increasing rates of parental separation and divorce, and parenting traditions are also eroding. Some children are looked after by house girls who are themselves often very young; others are put in day care centres.

All these factors are having an impact on children’s social, physical, social, emotional and moral development.

Activity 1.3: Childhood in East Africa

  1. List three aspects of childhood that are common in East Africa.
  2. List three differences in the way girls and boys are treated in your culture.
  3. Describe three changes in East African society that are having an impact on the way children grow up.

This activity should take approximately 10–15 minutes.

Compare your own answers with the suggestions at the end of the study session.

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1.5 Characteristics of childhood