Suffer The Little Children: Volume 4

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Table of contents

(24 chapters)

CONTENTS

Pages V-VII
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PROLOGUE

Pages XIII-XVIII
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As the 21st century begins, the overwhelming majority of the people in the world who live in poverty are women and children. Humanity has seen stunning advances and has made enormous strides for children, many of them in the last decade, many others in just over the span of a generation. Children's lives have been saved and their suffering prevented (UNICEF, 2000). For example, polio, once a global epidemic, is on the verge of eradication in some countries, and deaths from two remorseless child killers, measles and neonatal tetanus, have been reduced over the past 10 years by 85% and more than 25%, respectively. Some 12 million children are now free from the risk of mental retardation due to iodine deficiency. Blindness from vitamin A deficiency has been significantly reduced. More children are in school today than at any previous time.

INTRODUCTION

Pages XIX-XXI
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Women and children compose the overwhelming majority of the people of the world in poverty across the globe. Suffer the LittleChildren: National and International Dimensions of Child Poverty and Public Policy, examines the burden of poverty on children, and the implications of that poverty upon the lives and future mobility of generations of children. One of the best aspects of this body of work is that it places the problem of child poverty in international context. In essence, the universality of child poverty is illuminated as well as the relationship between women's status and child poverty and, the greater likelihood that children of color, in particular, across the globe will live in poverty.

Concern with the size of poverty in any nation leads to a broader question: What does it mean to be poor in a rich society? More specifically, what does it mean for a family, and particularly its children, to live in a state of poverty within a prosperous society? To begin to answer these questions, we must look at poverty in the context of its opposite, plenty. As members of modern societies, we use a wide range of goods and services to effect our participation in social relations and to create and sustain our sense of social identity. The mainstream standard of living defines the average American's family resources that fall sufficiently short of the mainstream as deprivation, precarious subsistence, exclusion – in short, poverty. Our common cultural understanding is that we cannot play our social roles or participate meaningfully in our communities without the basic material resources necessary to carry out our activities. One way or another, each of us has to “make a living” in order to “have a life.” The roles and activities that define participation are age-graded – child, teenager, young adult, mature adult, senior citizen. For any one age, these common cultural understandings allow people to pass judgment on their own rank and that of others in a continuum from destitution to unseemly affluence, based on what kind of participation they can effect.

Hardly surprisingly, like many fellow Glaswegians, I grew up believing that the language of the majority of my fellow citizens was slang1 and hence to be disparaged, if not altogether despised. The fact that we were all equally able to express ourselves in Glaswegian or varying degrees of “Standard” English was conveniently overlooked. The hegemonical dominance of the “Standard” was total. Our native tongue was to be extirpated as rapidly as possible if we wanted any social advancement at all and in working class Glasgow in the 1960s and 1970s social advancement was a major item on many a personal agenda. The multilingualism now so much à la mode was never an issue. Implicitly we were indoctrinated with notions of transient bilingualism whose goal, like that of the 19th and 20th century social missionaries in the Celtic areas of Scotland (and elsewhere), was to teach us the English in order that we forget the Glaswegian.

Over the past decade, and coinciding with the rise in HIV/AIDS incidence, there has been a spectacular increase in the number of orphans in Malawi. Few orphans eat as many as two poor meals a day; most have few clothes, no shoes, bedding or soap. Hungry, poorly clothed children do not go to school or if they go, do not stay. Without completing at least primary school, job prospects are low. Without education or work orphans remain poor and become involve in casual sexual relationships. Orphans give birth to orphans. Those who are HIV positive give birth to those who are susceptible to HIV. Cycles of poverty, orphanhood and HIV/AIDS continue.

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This paper illustrates the problems of Roma children through the life of a particular group of emigrants and aims to determine what is behind the decision to emigrate and what it takes to support adaptation to a new social environment. European literature has not dealt with the emigration of this ethnic group until now because during the period from the introduction of the Iron Curtain until 1990, emigration from East to West was minimal except during the major political upheavals.

According to the U.S. Committee for Refugees (2002) there were approximately 15 million refugees in the world in 2001, of which over three million were African. Refugees are persons who flee to a different country to escape persecution based on personal or group characteristics such as race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, social group, political opinion, or armed conflict, and lack of a durable solution (U.S. Committee for Refugees, 2001). For example, in Burundi, a small African country of about 6 million people, the civil war between the Tutsi and the Hutu has forced over half a million refugees to seek shelter in other African countries, Europe, and the United States (UNHCR, 2000).

In order for Black children to assimilate into the dominant culture in different countries, historically, their cultural values have been minimized or, in some cases, attempts have been made to altogether separate them from their cultural group. This process of cultural assimilation or alienation has had a devastating effect on Black children's educational opportunities around the globe, particularly as it relates to the loss of their identity and to the underutilization of their human potential. This chapter provides an overview of the similarities of the historical experiences of Black populations globally that have led to the assimilation process of Black children where the majority population is non-Black (e.g. Australia, Great Britain, and the U.S.A.) and discusses how Black children's loss of identity has led to the underutilization of their potential. The chapter concludes with the necessity of rethinking the assimilation paradigm as one way to impact on the poverty of Black populations.

Located between 10 and 11 degrees north of the equator, and seven miles from the northeast corner of Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago are a twin island republic and the southernmost islands in the Caribbean chain that begins off the coast of Florida. The islands have a tropical maritime climate with two seasons – a hot dry season from January to May and a hot rainy season from June to December. The daily temperature ranges from the low 70s to the high 80s year round, and for the 10-year period 1987–1996, Trinidad's mean low and high temperatures were 73 and 89 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. As the islands are located south of the hurricane belt, neither has been hit by a hurricane since Hurricane Flora hit Tobago in 1963.

Currently, more than 300,000 children under the age of eighteen are fighting as soldiers with government armed forces and armed opposition groups in more than thirty countries worldwide. In more than eighty-five countries, hundreds of thousands more under-eighteens have been recruited into government armed forces, paramilitaries, civil militia and a wide variety of non-state armed groups. Millions of children worldwide receive military training and indoctrination in youth movements and schools. While most child soldiers are aged between fifteen and eighteen, the youngest age reported is seven (UN Chronicle, Winter 2000).

On October 21, 1989, the Berlin wall fell, announcing the collapse of the Soviet empire and the demise of 20th century socialism. In a much celebrated article published the same year, a senior official of the U.S. Department of State, Francis Fukuyama, announced the “end of history,” celebrating “the unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism and the universalisation of Western democracy as the final form of human government.”1 Indeed, the Cold War is over and we can all rest in peace. Capitalism has prevailed and we can now use interchangeably such words as market economy, freedom and democracy.

After Jomtien1 under the goal of providing “education for all” a great number of countries made a strong commitment to extend the benefits of education to the poorest sectors of their population. Efforts have been made in the following years to fulfill this promise. But the issues associated with understanding and addressing disadvantaged populations are multiple and complex. Moreover the strategies followed by a number of countries have been framed under structural assumptions inherently limiting and undermining the intentions of the policies that gave them origin. Seeking to understand the challenges and complexities of change in these contexts, I analyze Mexico's assumptions framing educational policy toward the rural and indigenous poor.2 I argue that a number of initiatives may fail to fully address the needs of these populations due to the assumptions underlying these policies which end up resting agency to the poor, their children, and to their teachers and schools. After describing the theoretical framework used in this chapter and providing a brief description of Mexico's political economy, I examine Mexico's past and current government policies toward the poor and look at the spaces that have opened up for innovation due to growing relationships with the global economy and the global community and to relationships between Mexico's central and local governments. I suggest that compulsory early childhood education is one obvious avenue (complementing policies such as Federalizacion and teacher education) to correct centuries of injustice and neglect. I discuss the implications of this analysis within the context of the current decentralization movement and the growing discontent among the rural poor.

Though poverty is one of the consequences of the lack of education, this latter can be the solution to poverty, particularly when children and youngsters are prioritized in school. And in the fight against inequality, education for the development of human beings is the key, especially if we want to save children and adolescents in order to guarantee the future.

Approximately 120 million children under the age of 14 labor full time, according to recent estimates by the International Labor Organization (ILO) (U.S. Department of Labor, 2002, 2001; UNICEF, 2000). If those for whom work is a secondary activity are included, the number of working children rises to 250 million. The majority of child laborers live in Asia, although Africa has a higher rate of child labor. The ILO estimates that 40% of African children between the ages of five and fourteen years of age, work. (U.S. Department of Labor, 2002, 2001) Although the majority of the 120 million full time working children labor in the commercial agricultural sector, child labor is not confined to any particular economic sector. Children work as domestic servants, in mining, as divers in deep-sea fishing, in construction, as prostitutes, in toy, shoe and garment factories, as cigarette makers, as rug weavers, in charcoal making, in glass and ceramics factories, as sports equipment and surgical instrument makers, in the match and fireworks industries and in many other jobs.

The impact of apartheid, destabilization, and warfare in southern Africa has especially taken a severe and unimaginable toll on the future and life chances of children in the region. Prior to 1990 when a series of significant events changed the social and economic landscape of the sub-continent, a number of disturbing profiles and trends pointed to a desolate situation for children and women by most child welfare, household, poverty, education, and health indicators. As a result of massive underdevelopment compounded by war and economic destabilization for decades, only aggravated by colonialism and post-colonial policies, the health and welfare of children in southern Africa had reached tragic proportions.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in the opening quote reminds us that despite the medical and public health gains of recent decades, benefits have not accrued to the most vulnerable of citizens, children (DeYoung & Lynch, 2002). For decades research has quantified the links between poverty, ill-health and the global burdens imposed by disease. Yet, the distribution of poverty and disease has changed little over the last thirty years, continuing to be concentrated among poor children in both emerging and developed nations (Bellamy, 1999; Brundtland, 1999). Fundamentally, the complex web of poverty relegates youth to a lifetime of suffering because of the relationships between and among resources, health and neurological development.

How delinquent, dependent/neglected, and abused children are treated by criminal justice agencies is a concern that crosses geographical boundaries. Do the courts sentence juveniles too leniently or, conversely, too harshly? Around the world some of the most serious questions involve the placement of juveniles in penal institutions. There are some clearly recognized problems. First, many countries still house delinquents and non-delinquent children in the same institutions, despite nation-wide reforms or legislation specifically prohibiting such practices. Second, many juveniles, regardless of their status, are held in jails and detention facilities built or administered for adult populations that greatly outnumber the younger inmates. Third, efforts at reform, while ambitious, have been ineffective in changing objectionable practices and/or aiding children in need. Fourth, left unresolved is the question as to whether the problems noted above in developed countries are present to a greater or lesser degree in developing countries.

This article is divided into seven sections randomly organized to address specific issues related to poor and destitute children in Sierra Leone. The contents are primarily flavored by the work and implementation dynamics of a small non-profit organization trying to make a dent in the welfare and upkeep of some of Sierra Leone's poor children. Sometimes the activities of our organization also touch the lives of adults, particularly when these adults are so poor that they are unable to provide for themselves and their children. The first section gives an introduction. The second section describes the country in geographical, educational, and socio-economic contexts. The third provides snapshots or vignettes of what it means to be poor and the realities of working among the poor in Sierra Leone. In the fourth section, we discuss the nature of child poverty in the country. Section five discusses probable contributions made by the state towards child poverty in Sierra Leone. Section six narrates the nature of the work done by the Leonenet Street Children Project.1 Recommendations are made in section seven on what needs to be done to ameliorate the situation.

The Centre for Training and Rehabilitation of Destitute Women (CTRDW, also the Centre throughout) is a euphemistic name for a shelter for abandoned pregnant women and their infants in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Seventeen percent of the women admitted to CTRDW over an eight year period (1981–1989) are very young teenagers (15 years of age and under) who have sustained unmarried, and therefore unwanted, pregnancies. It is with these young mothers that this paper is concerned. The circumstances under which these young women find themselves both pregnant and abandoned by their families are culturally constructed. The data presented here are taken from CTRDW admission records, life histories taken by the CTRDW Social Worker, interviews with the Director, Betty Steinkrauss Brown, and her extensive correspondence with her family in Canada.1 Betty is a Canadian woman who originally went to Bangladesh is 1977 to administer the Families for Children (FFC) orphanage in Dhaka.

Virtually, all countries in sub-Saharan Africa (perhaps with the exception of South Africa) have still not achieved the economic, social and political self-sufficiency that the pioneers of decolonization had envisaged by the closing years of the millennium. Despite the active presence of the World Bank (WB) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the sub-region development scene, initial gains immediately after colonial rule have disappeared, resulting in economic and social stagnation and, in extreme cases, disintegration (Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia). According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) (1996, 2000) in many post-colonial countries, real per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has fallen and welfare gains achieved since independence in areas like food consumption, health and education have declined. As a whole, in sub-Saharan Africa, per capita incomes dropped by 21% in real terms between 1981 and 1989.1 Madagascar and Mali now have per capita incomes of $799 and $753, down from $1,258 and $898 twenty-five years ago. In 16 other sub-Saharan countries per capita incomes were also lower in 1999 than in 1975.2 Nearly one-quarter of the world's population, but nearly 42% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa, live on less than $1 a day. Levels of inequality have also increased dramatically worldwide. This phenomenon is vividly reflected in the well-known graphic presentation of the UNDP (1992) in Fig. 1.

At the turn of the century, the developing world is experiencing the largest-ever generation of children and youth. Around 1 billion people – one out of every six on the planet – are between 10 and 19 years of age, 85% of them in developing countries. Because of the considerable drop in fertility rates, in the next 15–20 years, the children of today will constitute the largest generation-ever of active population. This is perhaps the greatest opportunity the world cannot afford to miss. This paper claims that the trends keeping the majority of the children in poverty and limiting their development are not irreversible, that the world has enough information, technology and financial resources to defeat these trends.

Subject Index

Pages 497-500
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DOI
10.1016/S1479-358X(2004)4
Publication date
Book series
Advances in Education in Diverse Communities
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-0-76230-831-6
eISBN
978-1-84950-129-3
Book series ISSN
1479-358X