It takes a vil­lage to raise a child

Sun Star Bacolod - - Front Page - CHURCHILL AGUILAR aguilarchu­[email protected]

IOPENED my first resto­bar at a small mu­nic­i­pal­ity in Min­danao five years ago. One time, I de­cided to close my shop ear­lier than usual since there were no cus­tomers that night. Out of bore­dom I went out to play bil­liards with one of my staff at a lit­tle store just few walks away. It was past cur­few al­ready but the one who at­tended to us was a kid in his early teens that looked like he has not had a de­cent meal for months. With few queries I learned that in­deed his mom died a cou­ple of years ago and his fa­ther left him to be with a new fam­ily so he sur­vived with the few pe­sos he gets as tip. Out of char­ity I of­fered him a job as a gar­dener - to my thought I could use an ex­tra pair of hands in keep­ing my yard green and he badly needed shel­ter, cloth­ing and food. He was too ea­ger to take the of­fer that he showed up at my gate very early the fol­low­ing day. My fam­ily took him in and for the first few weeks we had to nour­ish him first be­fore we could give him chores to do.

At the start he was do­ing his chores but no sooner the kid started to show be­hav­ioral prob­lems. He would sneak out of the house when we are all asleep to play com­puter games and he would be too tired and sleepy to do chores the fol­low­ing day. He would bully our other helper so she would do his work for him. We en­rolled him to an ALS school, twice, but he never showed up in class said his teacher. He was in­ca­pable of sub­mit­ting to struc­tures. A cou­ple of times I caught him com­ing home drunk. When rep­ri­manded he would elope but would re­turn few weeks af­ter look­ing so thin, hun­gry and re­morse­ful.

We al­ways took him in every time he came back. He was al­ready too much to bear but I could not sim­ply give up on the kid when even his fa­ther turned his back on him. Every time he would elope I would see him sleep at benches of sari-sari stores and at day time he was al­ways at the com­pany of chil­dren in con­flict with the law. Yet for some rea­son all the prin­ci­ples for be­hav­ior mod­i­fi­ca­tion I learned from my psy­chol­ogy classes and my ten-year ex­pe­ri­ence as a teacher did not work. We felt help­less.

One time he de­cided to elope again when he was as­signed to cut the grasses in our grounds. Later that night one of our bar staff saw him puk­ing and half-con­scious at a store be­side the hi-way, so he car­ried him back to our maids’ quar­ter. Af­ter lunch the fol­low­ing day he left again. While I was an­gry at what hap­pened, I was more over­whelmed with pity. He was sim­ply a vic­tim of an un­for­tu­nate cir­cum­stance. He was just a kid, and he badly needs guid­ance.

The kid se­ri­ously needs help. Such ex­pe­ri­ence made me see how it is to be trapped in poverty – it makes a per­son in­ca­pable of bounc­ing back. We taught him to dream, but dream­ing sim­ply can­not come from out­side. He has got to dream his own dreams. But sur­vival was the only world he knew, and while his par­ents could be faulted for it, the so­ci­ety too has its ac­count­abil­ity. Kids should not be al­lowed to play at com­puter shops af­ter cur­few time. Kids should not be served with liquor or cig­a­rette in any store even if they can pay.

Adults should not turn a blind eye on kids loi­ter­ing on the streets with­out their guardians or kids not in school dur­ing school hours. Par­ents who aban­don their kids for what­ever rea­son should be pun­ished. Or­phans should not be left to fend for them­selves. Be­cause re­ally, while par­ents are the main for­ma­tors of chil­dren, it takes the whole vil­lage to raise a kid. And if a kid fails, the whole vil­lage should be faulted for it.*

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