A lesson on abuse …children asked to draw parents fighting

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By Farayi Mungoshi

WHAT would you do if your daughter or son of just four years returns home from Early Childhood Development (ECD) having been given homework by his/her teacher to draw a picture of mum and dad fighting?
Would you let her do it or stop her from doing it?
These were some of the questions, among many, spinning in the head of a friend of mine when she sent me a text message early this week seeking advice.
She sent me some WhatsApp conversations between herself and the teacher, seeking clarification with regards to the homework.
The teacher stood her ground and insisted that this was part of the curricula.
She said the children had to learn about the forms of abuse, why it’s bad for parents to fight and the impact it has on the children.
At first I found it flattering that she would ask me for advice but after reading the messages between parent and teacher, I realised this was an issue with no simple, clear-cut answer.
In order for me to deliver good and sound advice, I went onto our family, extended included, WhatsApp platform which has nurses, social workers, doctors, journalists, authors and motivational speakers.
I felt I would get a good conversation going and perhaps some sound advice, especially considering that most of us have children at ECDs across the country.
Those who responded to the issue did so in my inbox and were against the idea of children being asked to draw pictures of their parents fighting.
Others suggested we take the topic and tackle it on national radio.
As sensitive as the issue was, no one could, or would, give me a reason for a teacher to ask children to draw pictures of their parents fighting.
After noticing the appalling responses from my cousins, I returned to my dear friend and asked her if there were other parents who had complained concerning the homework, and she said no.
At first I thought, aah well, how many parents in Chitungwiza even check their children’s homework anyway, and then I thought again of how wrong it is to stereotype people based on where they stay or come from – but based on the topic at hand I felt most of us are like sheep – we just do things without questioning.
Just because your child is going to school, you assume he/she is learning the right thing and you never question the teaching methods.
When we question because we want to understand how our children are being taught, we are labelled troublemakers thus I understood why my friend also requested that I withhold her name and the school’s name.
So, while we are teaching our children about abuse, we must ask: “What about the parents, how much do they know? How many understand about abuse?”
In my quest to find out what was wrong with the teacher’s request that I couldn’t really and clearly pinpoint, I decided to call Rumbidzai Venge, a lawyer who has tackled the subject of ECDs on radio.
She said parents could look at it in the manner that the teacher might have requested the children to do this kind of homework in order to raise awareness.
Children should be able to recognise abuse, that it is wrong, and should learn to speak out when it happens.
Children learn by experience, so there is need to teach them so that when they go home and see people fighting, they know that it is wrong and that violence is not the answer.
Was I satisfied by what I had been told?
No!
Was my friend satisfied?
No.
Despite the issue being a grey area, one thing is clear, this kind of teaching can either help the child or backfire.
There is need for ECD teachers to learn more on how to teach children on abuse or how to raise awareness in a manner that is not contentious.
“If asking children to draw a picture of mum and dad fighting is raising awareness and teaching children on abuse then how different is it from asking them to draw a picture of someone getting raped?” my friend had asked me earlier and that is the question that drove me to write this article.
While we all agree that children should be sensitised on abuse, we should also agree on the teaching methods.
And if we have chosen the Western way of teaching our children, then we should go all out and also prepare ourselves for what is to come.
Is it not in the UK a teenager asked to divorce herself from her parents recently?
What do we really want for our children and what are the best ways to teach them right from wrong?

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