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It Takes A village to Raise A child! "Mtoto wa Mwenzio ni Mwanao"-Your neighbour's child is your child!

Way back in time, it was village's role to raise a successful child. I grew up in a humble village in Eastern Uganda two decades ago and I didn't go hungry for a day because everyone's door in the village was open for me. I and my peers worked hard, ate well, played freely with adults, rested long and enjoyed good health. We acquired our sports talents and life survival skills from our villages because everyone cared for our welfare. Back then growing up was joy for all children and the village. Today, everything is upside down. Survival is for the fittest. Because parents desire nurturing successful children but at times don't know how best to do it, understanding how people around can make a difference in supporting them is necessary.

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What are we learning from these stories?

Parents have great hopes and dreams for their children and have the desire to nurture and insecure their future to be the best they can be. They desire to get status and recognition by having educated and successful children.
Teachers, health workers and VHTs are the main role models parents have for their children.
Each of the parents we interacted with had great memories about bringing up their children. These memories were mainly related to the parents getting assurance that their children are growing well by showing signs of good developmental milestones like crawling, walking and talking.
There are good opportunities that parents use to interact with their children.
Parents are very worried about death, sickness, education, performance, feeding and family problems.

Part IV: Updates from educationists

The following quote from Augusto Cury's book---the Dreamseller summarizes some of the complex challenges facing childhood today and gives us something to ponder about as we think about helping children thrive:

"The internet, video games, computer--they're all useful, but they have destroyed something valuable: childhood. Where is the pleasure of silence? Where is the fun of playing outside? Where is innocence? It pains me so deeply that the system is creating unhappy, restless children--better suited for psychiatric care than happy, carefree lives".


Part III: Updates from role models

I hereby provide updates on the findings from discussions with the village health teams, health workers and local leaders that mothers had identified as role models for children:


  • All the role models are concerned about the need to help their communities to better nurture and secure the future of their children. They recognize how much everyone is negatively affected when children are not well and how such brings about losses. Sickness and death of children leads to poor development as people are disrupted from engaging in gardening and other important activities.
​"As a chairman, I would have peace because I would get less complaints from the people and even people would be able to work and get their own money and also the children would be brighter in class which would make me happy”, community leader.
  • VHTs know by helping reduce the common illnesses and disruptions in health, they would help caretakers reduce domestic violence which often affects child care.
"When I eliminate malaria I would be able to reduce the domestic violence which arises when money is spent for hospital bills”, VHT said.
  • There is poverty of time everywhere now days. Ilness of children disrupts productivity of village health workers and causes them to lose their valuable time. They are willing to help caretakers reduce health burden in children so that they can also focus on own productivie activities:
“I would erase malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea; I would get time to do my personal duties, I remember the time when I had just gone to the garden then I was called to attend to  a client, no sooner had I finished attending to that client than more two appeared, so I had to just quit going back to the garden”, VHT said.
  • The VHTs also recognize how having skills would help them make difference in lives of children in their villages:
“If I learn how to treat our children I would start from my own children, and then to the rest of the community.That make me feel happy as a VHT, and as a parent, it means I won’t spend a lot of money on medication for the children”, FGD discussant.
  • Health workers would want  to feel more of achievers if they help reduce diseases  affecting children in their communities.
“It would make a personal difference in my life in a way that I would feel successful in what I am doing. It gives us a good feedback on what we are doing and gives me more vigour to continue with what am doing”, reported health worker.
  • The health workers also recognize how nurturing for the children should start with their mothers while still pregnant.
"I would want to have malaria wiped out of the sub county because children would grow well i.e. no retardation and the babies in wombs would develop well if the pregnant women are not attacked by malaria", health worker.
  • Local leaders want peace and brighter children. They are willing to help their communities achieve this by working with them.
"“As a chairman of the village, I would have peace because I would get less complaints from the people and even people would be able to work and get their own money and also the children would be brighter in class which would make me happy".
  • The role models recognize the need to work in a coalition of health workers, village health teams, religious leaders, school children and caretakers if the health challenges facing children are to be addressed effectively. The local leaders enjoy interacting with their people, have platforms they meet with them while village health teams and health workers directly provide health care to the caretakers and children. Religious leaders are respected by everyone while school children are hard to resist by parents.
"The leaders want to interact with people so engaging them is something they hold as dear", said health worker.

“The first thing would be to come together and combine efforts to teach people", recommended VHT.

“What I would like to add on are the schools, we also go there and educate them and you know when children learn, everyone else in the home also learn”, VHT.

“We just tell these local leaders to be clear about the kind of message to be passed on in the gatherings because in most cases when these local leaders call for gatherings, people think they are going to be given something, but when it is clearly passed on that the call is intended for health they will come ready to listen”, echoed a VHT 

“They (VHTs) visit homes, get information that most of us as chairmen can’t do alone, get information about women that are sick, women that are pregnant and so forth”, said a village leader. 

“In this area we have VSLA (Village Saving and Loan associations) which have about 30 people so you can educate them when you find them in a weekly meeting. When there is a village meeting (happens once in while) you can request the chairperson for a chance to speak to the people”, discussant reported.

Part II

The team conducted interviews with mothers of children under two years in another rural district in Uganda early this week. The key findings are highlighted:

  • Where, doing what, and with whom does the child spend the day, from when he or she gets up in the morning until bedtime (and through the night)?
Mother 1--Male child aged 16 months. 
Child spends whole day with the mother either at home or in the gardens. While with the mother, the child is playing, breastfeeding, carried on the back and other times feeding at meal times.The child is awake at 6 am, sleeps once at mid-day for not more than 20 minutes and gets to bed at 7 pm.

Mother 2--Male child aged 5 months.
Child spends most of the day with the mother either at home or in the gardens. While with the mother, the child is playing, the mother helps the child to dance, have some conversations, breastfeeding and carrying him on the back. At times the mother allows the child to crawl which according to her will help him learn how to walk. The child sleeps 3 times in a day; at 10 am, 3 pm and 7:30 pm as bed time.

Mother 3--Child female 3 years
"My child spends most of her time at school with teachers and fellow pupils in nursery. She gets up by 6: 30 am and since she ever at school most of the day, I am not sure if she sleeps during the day. My girl goes to bed at 8: 00pm. This girl likes playing with her dolls and our neighbors and other times she prefers to spend time eating".

Mother 4--Female child aged 6 months.
"My child spends time with me (mother) at home and garden breast feeding, playing and crawling. She is awake at 6 am with me and goes to bed at 8 pm with all of us (family members). She sleeps 3 times in a day; at 8 am, 1pm and 8pm as bed time".

Mother 5, male child aged 2 and half years.
Child spend most of his time with the mother at home and sometimes in the garden. While with the mother, they spend time talking, playing, have meals together. Other times the child gets a hoe/ panga /knife and goes to plantation to try out gardening work like the mother. "My child is as early as 5 am even when no one else is awake, he sleeps once a day at 1pm and gets to bed at 10pm with the rest"
  • What is the significance of particular activities in the child's day (e.g., family meals, taking care of a younger sibling)?
Mother 1:
"Play time helps my child to keep active and creative especially when we are in the garden as he tries to crawl, walk, and dance. This helps me as a mother to know when my child is not feeling well in relation to the change in behaviour such as when he stops playing or over sleeps".

Mother 2:
"For example when I am talking with my child, he is able to know I am the mother and this helps him to grow up understanding and speaking mother’s language"

Mother 3:
"Playing with dolls keeps her mind busy and creative because sometimes she makes her our dolls from banana leaves and I believe this is good for brain development".

Mother 4:
"Spending time to breastfeed my child is very important because I know breast milk is the only food and drink that is good for her. Then after I will introduce in some foods and drinks since she is 6 months"

Mother 5:
"Spending time to talk with my child will help him know values of the family, be disciplined in regard to meal times and gets to know and understand our local language that is spoken in this region".
  • How would you describe this child to a person who doesn't know him or her very well? (What kinds of qualities do you focus on?)
Mother 1:
"My child rarely cries except when ill. Every time he is hungry he runs for a cup/ bottle and puts on his mouth like drinking even when the cup is empty"

Mother 2:
"My child loves anyone who spends time playing with him, so it’s better for anyone who does not know him to create time for playing with him"

Mother 3:
"My child does not like to stay idle, so it’s better for someone to allow her to play".

Mother 4:
"Even when she is not crying it is better for someone to estimate after every 40 minutes to 1 hour to feed her on milk or bring her to for breastfeeding because I know she rarely shows signs of hunger".

Mother 5:
"My child is active and does not like anyone who keeps him in one place idle. Therefore it is better for that person to let him move around the house and do some work as he prefers. My child is hungry he stops working/playing and his face looks so sad".
  • What is most important for the child's development right now?
Mother 1:
  • Playing

Mother 2:
"I consider breastfeeding since my child is still very young and has not yet eaten food or other drinks like porridge and cow’s milk".

Mother 3:
  • Play times.
Mother 4:
  • Giving her more time to play.
Mother 5:
  • Playing and giving him time to be creative in his works.
  • What are the ways that you as a parent can help your child's positive development right now?" 
Mother 1:
"Always creating time to play with him because during this time he is able to know more and be able to talk and laugh. Also allow him be with other children for creativity and keeping his brain active"

Mother 2:
"Spending quality time to play and have conversations with".

Mother 3:
"To give her more time to play".

Mother 4:
"Spending quality time with her talking is good for her vocabulary in local language since it is the only language I speak".

Mother 5:
  • Playing time and freedom to move around the home. 

Part I
Findings from stories with parents of children zero to five


This week our team set out to Kiboga, a rural district in central Uganda, to listen to stories of parents. We specifically want to understand  stories regarding:
  • Hopes and dreams parents have for their children
  • Role models for children
  • People whom parents seek guidance on parenting
  • People children play 
  • Time parents interact with their children
  • Memorable times parents have raising up their children
  • Worries parents have

I hereby provide highlights of the findings we obtained from 13 parents whose stories we listened to.
  • ​Hopes and Dreams parents have for their children
Each of the parents we interacted with have very special hopes and dreams for their children zero to five years. These parents want to nurture and insure the future of their children so that they can be the best they can. The parents are toiling hard each day so that their children can grow up, enjoy life and uplift the social status of their parents. Parents would have great recognition and status if their children grew well and succeeded in life. They wished their children grow well, get good education and get good jobs. The parents wanted to see their children as medical doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses and directors of NGOs.
"I want my child to grow well, healthy, get good educated and be well with a good job as a doctor or teacher. I would feel happy and have lots of prestige", a father of five.

  • Role models for children
Each parent wanted people whom the community sees as smart, respected, helpful and committed as role models for their children. The main role models identified by the parents were;
  1. School teachers--community members look at them with pride
  2. Sunday school teachers
  3. Doctors and other health workers in the health centres
  4. Village Health Team (VHT) members
Similarly, the parents often consult these same people for parenting advice. In addition, the parents also consult with the grandparents of the children, their aunties and parents with children. The parents reported their children often play with teachers, health workers, grandparents, their siblings and themselves as parents.

  • Time parents interact with their children
The parents reported interacting with the children whenever they got the opportunity to. This includes in the morning before the children go to school, at meal time, when the children return home from school, during weekends and during holidays. The parents often chat with the children, do some housework together (if old enough), go to the gardens together and go visiting together.
  • Memorable times parents have raising up their children
Each of the parents shared very fond moments they have when bringin up their children. The commonest and most memorable times shared by all the 13 parents include:
  1. When the child starts crawling, walking or talking
  2. The moment the child starts calling the parents by the name
  3. When the children return from school and share with the parents what they learnt from school each day
  4. The time when the older children help with house work or work with the parents in the garden
  5. The day a child works with the parent and produce a new object like tippy tap!
  • Worries parents have about the future for their children
Each of the parents had worries regarding the future of their children. The main worries revealed by the parents were:
  1. The child dying
  2. Sickness of the child
  3. Failure to get school fees
  4. Failure to get food for the children
  5. Failure to get money for medical care for children
  6. When the child fails to perform well in school
  7. Family getting into misunderstanding because of sick children
  8. Children do not get clothes to wear. 

What is coming up Next?

We will continue interacting with parents of children zero to five, school teachers, sunday school teachers, health workers and VHTs to understand their stories related to caring for children of this age group.

Special thanks to:

  • Parents in Kiboga district who voluntarily shared their life stories with us
  • Great members of Ideators who are providing feedback on our research.
  • Members of the Innovation Centre, Kampala,Uganda who spent great deal of time to listen to stories from the parents of Kiboga.

People will speak out their hearts through stories  and life course approaches...
  • Because I am convinced the village can still rise up and raise a child together today, I am setting out to understand how we can work together to to make child wellbeing a responsibility for everyone once again. 
  • The greatest proportion of the population in developing countries live in rural areas and thus rural areas have the highest population of infants and young children under 5 years.
  • Infants and young children under 5 years in rural areas have the greatest burden of disease, undernutrition, mortality and life long deformation.

  • It seems logical to provide the main focus to rural areas of developing countries.
  • No better way to address the challenges this population is facing than getting everyone in the villages to take up the responsibility of raising up a child irrespective of whether they are their own or not! I am sure no parent or community member would like to see a child fail to walk, eat or thrive like this Amon in the photo below:

  • The challenge is I am not sure of how this can be possible. I am only sure that they--the people out there know because they have different stories to tell.
  • To help understand who to get everyone to help raise up a child in a village, I am conducting discussions and interviews with communities. From these stories I will know best the influencers who will make this happen.

At the end a well raised child, will raise the village. MORE TO FOLLOW...


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