So You Want to Send Your Child to the Children Department of Your Place of Worship? Ask these Ten (10) Child Protection Focused Question: Question 4: who are the teachers?

It gives me great pleasure to do this Social Empowerment Advocacy today. I hope you are finding my present treatise educative and instructive. That is exactly my intention, to make you a formidable army in the protection of our dear children, who are God greatest gifts to humanity.

I proceed right away to ask the fourth question: who are the teachers? Teachers in the children department of a religious place of worship hold a very important position of authority and influence in the lives of the children. The teacher is the physical model of everything the religious place of worship represents to the child in terms of values and commitment to child protection.

No matter how noble the intention of the religious place of worship is, once they cannot be internalised, interpreted and represented by the teachers, such noble intention have no direct and positive impact on the child. The leaderships of the religious place of worship and its children’s department cannot possibly be in all the classes at the same time. Therefore the teachers must be their value ambassador as it relates to child protection.

For the teacher to be a child protection value ambassador of the religious place of worship to the children, I believe he/she must be assessed on the following basis:

1. Belief: what does he/she believe about children? Does he/she believe about children what the religious place of worship believes? Does he/she believe in child protection as a culture, which must not be compromised in his/her personal interactions with his/her own children at home and in the place of worship? Belief is the breeding ground of vision and values. Values show up in habits.

I had gone to a religious place of worship to speak on the day of their worship and as I was being ushered into my car after the speaking engagement, I witnessed an accident. A power bike parked on the premises of the children department of the religious place of worship was pushed by a child and it almost fell on her. The child obviously out of curiosity had gone to the bike to play with same. The response of the first teacher to get to the scene when the child raised an alarm is very instructive. It is also an eloquent testimony of the belief of the teacher on child protection. She stood afar without going near to check the true state of the girl and said, ‘what are you looking for where the bike is packed.’ It is curious that her first response was to blame the already troubled child. I think this response is very unfair to the little girl who would be between 4 and 5 years old. The child was visibly shaken by the incident. Her response only increased the fear and anxiety of the girl. I think the first thing the child needed was a word of comfort and warmth. If there is any lesson she needed to learn she has learnt it by the incident. Now, using my child protection mind, I quickly looked at the issues involved, which this teacher obviously does not understand. First, why should a power bike be parked on the premises of the children department of the religious place of worship, in view of the fact that it could be injurious to children, who may become curious by its presence and may attempt to play with it like the girl in question did? Second, where was the teacher or volunteer, in whose care the child was when the child went to play with the bike? Third, what should be the first response of a primary or secondary caregiver when a child is in distress like this girl was? These are child protection issues and the teacher in question was oblivious of all these. From child protection and sanity perspectives, the child has no blame at all. But the teacher’s traditional sense told her otherwise as she yelled unjustifiable on the child. I also believe that the way she treated this matter is the way she treat the children under her care when she is with them.

I was also told another pathetic story of teachers who took a child to a secluded place and began to cane him, having accused him of being stubborn and causing the mother’s misfortune. The teachers believe that canning the child will return the child to normalcy as if there is anything wrong with the child in the first instance. They saw they intervention as both spiritual deliverance and physical discipline. They were carrying out this exercise in the presence of other children. By their belief, a child could constitute a problem without the input of the primary and secondary caregivers. They do not understand that discipline and humiliation and dehumanization are not the same. They do not know that the whole essence of discipline is to help a child to be conscious of the dignity of his/her human person and that discipline does not begin with instruction but with example of the primary and secondary caregivers. They do not also understand that everything the child exhibits today is the harvest of the moral investment of the primary and secondary caregivers. They do not understand that the child’s behaviour is his/her psychology and the child’s psychology is a product of his/her socialization or call it influence. They do not also understand that there is nothing physical about a spiritual deliverance (that is if the child needs any, I doubt he does) and that a process, which is supposed to bring comfort to the child should not cause him physical and emotional pain. They do not understand above all that the child has only one problem in life and it is the ignorance of the primary and secondary caregivers. In view of the foregoing, they do not obviously understand that the unprofessional exercise of subjecting the child to public canning was an exercise in futility, which only gain is to abuse, dehumanize and humiliate the child.

2. Knowledge, Skills and Attitude: Knowledge focuses on what to do. Skills focus on how to do it. Attitude focuses on the fortitude or character to do what is to be done. Does the teacher have the three? The presence of knowledge, skills and attitude introduces sense of mission, compassion and a commitment to give the child the best of care. Sense of mission means, the teacher has a clear picture of the professional treatment deserved by the child and the impact of same. The teacher also knows that there will be challenges of all kinds in treating the child positively. The teacher has therefore made a solemn commitment not to be satisfied until the children receive the best of care. That is the sense of mission. Compassion means the milk of care flowing from the heart of the teacher. It simply means the teacher has genuine concern for the children. His/her genuine concern for the children is the birthplace of his/her compassion for the children and it is also the sustaining power of same. Through knowledge, he/she understands that the number one mandate of the teacher as the secondary caregiver is to preserve the child’s dignity of human person. Through skill, he or she understands that in achieving the foregoing every interaction (in words and deeds) with the child matters and must never be taken for granted. Through attitude, the teacher will understand that example is everything to the child and that the most effective way to instruct a child is by example.

I think for the children to be safe in the hands of the teachers in the religious place of worship they must possess the foregoing in abundance. When they possess the foregoing, it means they are child protection compliant. To be child protection compliant is to be conscious of the best interest of the child in all things. As I always say, passion is not enough. Passion is a force but it a force that is destructive except it is mixed with knowledge, skill and attitude. Please note that knowledge, skills and attitude are not gifts of nature. They are meticulously acquired.

I beg to sign out here. I will be back tomorrow in the spirit of Social Empowerment Advocacy. I charge you today to Think the CHILD…Think TODAY…Think the FUTURE…

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