Population growth rates in sub-Saharan African countries are among the world’s highest. There each woman, on the average, gives birth to more than six children. Poverty, deteriorating environment, and scarcity of resources only add to the hardship. Here is my story.
I grew up here, in a major West African city. There were seven of us children in the family, but two died early on. Our home was a rented bedroom and parlor. Mother and Father slept in the bedroom, and we children slept on mats on the parlor floor, boys on one side of the room and girls on the other.
Like most people in our neighborhood, we didn’t have much money, and we didn’t always have everything we needed. Sometimes there was not even enough food. In the morning, we often had nothing to eat except reheated rice left over from the day before. At times even that was scarce. Unlike some who reason that the husband, as the wage earner, should have the biggest portion, with the wife next and the children getting what’s left, our parents would go without and let us children share what small amount there was. I appreciated their sacrifice.
Some people in Africa believe that only boys should go to school. They feel that it is not necessary for girls to go because they marry and their husbands take care of them. My parents did not hold that view. All five of us were sent to school. But it was a financial strain on my parents. Things like pencils and paper weren’t much of a problem, but textbooks were expensive, and so were the compulsory school uniforms.
When I began to go to school, I did not have shoes. It wasn’t until my second year at junior secondary school, when I was 14, that my parents were able to buy shoes for me. Mind you, this doesn’t mean I had no shoes at all. The only pair I owned was for church, and I wasn’t allowed to wear them to school or any other places. I had to go barefoot and we had to walk to and from school. It was about two miles [3 km] each way.
We washed our clothes in a stream. I remember going there with my mother, who carried a pail, a bar of soap, and the clothes. At the stream, she would fill the pail with water, put the clothes in, and rub soap into them. Then she would wash the clothes with her hands and rinse them in the stream. After that she spread them on other rocks or on the grass around to dry because they were too heavy to carry home wet. I was young at the time, so I was assigned to guard the drying clothes so that nobody would steal them. Mother did most of the work.
Few people had water piped to their homes, so one of my chores was to go with a bucket to fetch water from an outside faucet, called a standpipe. The problem was that during the dry season, many of the standpipes were locked to conserve water. On one occasion, we went one full day with no water to drink. Not a single drop! Sometimes I had to walk miles in search of just one bucketful of water. Carrying the water on my head for such long distances wore away my hair where the bucket rested. I had a bald patch at ten years of age! I am glad to say that the hair grew back.
Looking back, I would say our lot in life was average, perhaps even above average for our part of Africa. I know lots of other families whose living standard was far worse than ours. Many of my friends at school had to sell at the market before and after school in order to bring in money for their families. Others could not afford to have something to eat in the morning before school, and they would leave home hungry and be in school all day without food. I can remember lots of times when one of these children would come and plead with me as I ate my bread at school. So I would break off a piece to share with him.
Despite such hardships and difficulties, most people still like to have large families. “One child is not a child,” many people here say. “Two children are one, four children are two.” That is because the infant death rate is among the highest in the world. Parents know that though some of their children will die, some will live, grow up, get jobs, and bring home money. Then they will be in a position to look after their parents who have grown old.
Perhaps you can relate to my story if you are like say 40 and above. You remember your mother told you; ' I almost lost you when you were in my womb'. So yours have been a struggle from the womb, then when you were born you came face to face with the harsh realities of life. It starred in your face like a disease. You struggled most part of your life and now you are here still struggling with no hope things would work out. Then you remember one child born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He didn't have to do anything when he was young, did not have to work in the farm before going to school. And didn't have to sell in the market after school.
He had everything going well for him and till date he still have lots of things going on smoothly with him. Then perhaps you ask yourself 'IF LIFE IS FOR RENT HOW MUCH CAN I PAY FOR?'
Content created and supplied by: WesstPatty (via Opera News )