March 13, 2016
“It Takes a Village to Raise a Child.”
While this is certainly not the oldest saying, it one of the first sayings I can think of. I’m sure many of us have heard this as it is often repeated and thus ubiquitous. In fact, all or part of the saying has been used in the titles of various books (including Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 1996 literary offering).
Where Is The Origin of the Saying?
From my research, this appears to be an African proverb, specifically spoken in Igbo and Yoruba in Nigeria. There are variations of this proverb in other African nations. In Tanzania, the Sukuma changed it to “One knee does not bring up a child.” In Swahili, the proverb sounds like “One hand does not nurse a child.”
Here’s more on the first two groups I mentioned. The Igbo (pronounced EE-bo) are concentrated mainly along the southeastern region of Nigeria and we estimated to be numbered around some 20 million near the beginning of the 21st century. They tend to live in various villages yet share a common language. The Yoruba are one of the three largest ethnic groups of Nigeria and are concentrated in the southwestern part of the country and Benin. Many African-Americans have traced their lineage to the Yoruba. Current-day Yoruba generally live in large city-groups as opposed to villages.
What Does the Saying Really Mean?
Upon some thought it should be easy to decipher the meaning. Usually when we talk about villages, we are referring to those that are built by extended families. Where does an extended family come in? If a child is blessed with older siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents and cousins —they will naturally take part in the child’s rearing. Children are seen as a blessing for the village and it is thus the responsibility of their elders to take part in raising them.
Why Is This Saying Still Relevant Today?
In modern times, of course this alludes to the number of influences a child can have and on multiple levels.
You might immediately think of role models. While one might agree or disagree with Charles Barkley’s assertion that he is not a role model, the fact is children look up to adults and mimic their behaviors. So, you may not seek to influence a child — let alone another person’s child — but what you do and say may be seen and heard by children.
Most importantly, communities have an active role in rearing children. What do we all need? Food, shelter, water, clothing, and hygiene should come to mind. (That last part includes decent health and dental care. I don’t care what some people say. Those things should be rights!) We also need education and supervision. Additionally, we all need love and friendship. These things a vital for children and they should work together for a child to be raised properly and we will still need these to varying degrees once we grow up. What’s more is that multiple adults may be responsible on each level.
Now, it is understood that a child’s parents or guardians will be primarily responsible for seeing that a child will get everything he/she needs. Parents should be the first to provide for their children, feeding them, clothing them and putting roofs over their heads. Parents should also supervise their children and take part in their education.
Modern parents also need assistance. They may need to work in order to provide for their families or otherwise take part in their communities. Furthermore, children need to have enough freedom to socialize with others and learn what it means to be a productive member of society. Therefore, parents can’t watch their children 24/7. Teachers, babysitters, and officers of the law could fill in here to help with a child’s education, supervision, and safety. (The operative word is “help.”)
What the Adage Doesn’t Mean
Of course, this doesn’t mean that a village or community should raise a child in lieu of the child’s living parents — outside of some special circumstances.
It also should be said that not just any adult has the authority to discipline a child. That’s a real touchy subject, especially when it comes to corporal punishment.
I think I’ll stop here as that is another subject entirely.
So, how did I do? Admittedly, it was quite fun to work on this post and made the image. I gotta get started on the post for next Sunday, and I have just the saying in mind.
P.S.: This is off-topic, but let it be known that I hate Daylight Saving Time with a passion.