It Takes the Whole Village to Raise a Child

One of my high school memories is of my principal ordering me to shave my dreadlocks off. I found his orders peculiar, as I saw nothing wrong with my hairstyle. I was at the zenith of my adolescence, characterised by infernal impudence, and challenged him to give me money to please his demands. I knew inwardly that I disappointed him with my crude response, since he had invested his trust in me, both educationally and in my promising soccer career. I liked my dreadlocks a lot. The girls were crazy about the bleached mop on my head, and I especially enjoyed hearing their spontaneous boisterous screams on the sidelines of a soccer pitch, shouting my name every time I had the ball at my feet. His dislike of my hairstyle didn't stop and he kept on cajoling me to go bald. He asked one of the teachers to intervene - the same teacher happened to be my dad's cousin, and the principal knew very well that I would ultimately oblige. One day, when coming back from school, I saw a white Toyota jalopy parked at my grandmother's house. I knew it belonged to that stooge of a teacher who would preclude my freedom at school. As hard as I tried to keep looking good with my dreadlocks, they tried to knock sense into my head about the importance of listening to my teachers. I reluctantly relented and opted for a new hairstyle. What brought this vivid memory back is the recent deplorable actions by Gauteng school kids who condescendingly boycotted classes, demanding to wear skinny pants. Just as I wanted to look good in my dreadlocks and refused to have a hair policy enforced on my head, they wanted to be at their elegant best in their tight-fitting pants. To them, their actions, which left teachers and parents in shame, were impeccable as they wanted to make a fashion statement. But, to society, the proverb that "it takes a village to raise a child" was rendered futile. These are the same youngsters who are envisaged as future leaders but, instead of treating school as an institution of learning, they turn it into a bastion of crime, where cases of beating teachers, carrying weapons to school and bullying other pupils are often heard of. I also didn't like my khaki school uniform, but I had to wear it - not only because of school policy, but because it promoted a culture of homogeneity at school. As much as I do not blame them for their actions, I think now is the time for teachers and parents to work in unison for the benefit of pupils' futures. It is also unfortunate to state that, even if we can now start teaching the present generation about conventional behaviour in schools, we really need all the resources and power available to instil this kind of education into our community. We may be theologically divided as a country, but I am of the opinion that religious education needs to be reintroduced as one of the subjects at schools. This will serve as a divine clarion call to what God once prophesied in the book of 2 Chronicles 7:14 when He said: "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi put it succinctly: "Few things in life are as clear as adolescents' seemingly innate drive to assert their independent judgement of social affairs. It is not uncommon for middle and high school pupils to challenge various manifestations of authority, and openly voice their opinions about the justice of the situations they encounter at home and at school." I fully align myself with his sentiment, that some of this wayward behaviour is influenced by the adolescent stage during which issues such as alcohol, drugs and crime can contribute to the pupils' unconventional conduct. But teachers cannot do it alone. Parents must play a primary role and the community should also get involved. After all, it takes the entire village to raise a child.Mogotlane is a public servant

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The Clipper Makes Her Rounds
“You’d be amazed at what people walk around with,” said Serena Merrill.Ms. Merrill should know. Since 2008, she has been a foot care nurse for the elderly in and around West Stockbridge, Mass., and she has seen feet with every kind of problem you can imagine — and quite a few you’d probably rather not. For example: “A lot of men who were in World War II have had fungal nails since the 1940s from the trenches.”Since the 1940s? “Fungus is hard to get rid of,” Ms. Merrill said. Many older women also have this persistent condition, which renders nails yellow or even black, thick and misshapen, and tough to cut. But that’s hardly the only foot problem the elderly may experience: There are the corns, calluses, bunions and twisted toes, too, not to mention the damage caused by years of wearing too-pointy, too-tight, too-high heels. For the elderly especially, the feet can be one of the most neglected and abused parts of the body; simply clipping the nails can be impossible. “When you get old, your eyesight is not as good and you can’t bend down very easily, so you can poke yourself with the scissors,” said Dorothy Elsberg, 90, a former violinist for the Women’s Boston Symphony in Lenox, Mass.That can be hazardous for older patients, especially for those with diabetes. A slip of the clippers can lead to an infection that they may not notice until there’s serious damage. Surprisingly, nurses often can’t help with this caregiving task — they are not allowed to clip patients’ nails in medical facilities. Only in the past six years has there been a certification for nurses specializing in foot care. So every six weeks or so, Ms. Elsberg gets her toenails clipped by Ms. Merrill, who charges $45 for the house call. Elderly patients often are embarrassed by their feet, Ms. Merrill has found. “They’re ashamed,” she said. “They worry their feet are stinky or weird-looking.” And so they put off foot care until the problem becomes pressing. “People come to me with ingrown toenails or corns so painful they can’t walk any more,” she said. Handling people’s feet — cutting and filing nails, inspecting and healing every bump and rough patch, rubbing on lotion and massaging them — certainly sounds like one of caregiving’s less pleasant tasks. But the foot care ritual can also bring deep connections. “It’s sort of like being at the hairdresser for them – it’s amazing what will come out,” Ms. Merrill said. “Men will tell me their war stories and say, ‘Gee, I haven’t talked to anybody about this in years.'”One 85-year-old woman told Ms. Merrill about her husband, who went off to World War II with a major-league baseball career lined up, but lost a leg and came back to nothing. “She still got all teared up even though he died 20 years ago,” Ms. Merrill recalled.“When you get a smile and they walk away on top of the world, that’s pretty great,” Ms. Merrill added. “You don’t get that too much in nursing nowadays.” Marge Piercy, an award-winning poet and novelist, alludes to the emotional power that touching feet can evoke in “The Tao of Touch.” It’s a story Ms. Piercy heard from her own foot care nurse, and possibly the only poem in the English language to mention this profession (if you know of another, please tell us): What magic does touch createthat we crave it so. That babiesdo not thrive without it. Thatthe nurse who cuts tough nailsand sands calluses on the elderlytells me sometimes men weepas she rubs lotion on their feet.The blog is ending, but our coverage of caregiving and aging is not. The New Old Age will run as a twice-monthly column by Paula Span on nytimes.com and frequently in Science Times. Readmore…At many nursing homes and assisted living places, a resident’s passing may be hardly noted.Readmore…Circumstances had changed, and all these documents needed to change, too. Readmore…Lifestyle modification prevents Type 2 diabetes even more effectively in the elderly than in middle-aged patients.Readmore…Julianne Moore gives a wonderful performance in “Still Alice,” but the film skirts the truth about dementia.Readmore…Thanks to the marvels of medical science, our parents are living longer than ever before. Most will spend years dependent on others for the most basic needs. That burden falls to their baby boomer children. The New Old Age blog explored this unprecedented intergenerational challenge. Paula Span will continue to write New Old Age columns twice monthly at nytimes.com/health and the conversation will continue on Twitter (@paula_span) and Facebook.A few medical institutions have opened their doors to patients’ own dogs and cats. Scheduling and medication errors plague patients with Parkinson's.Dementia doesn't respect public stature.Is there life after caregiving, and if so what it is like?Comprehensive reference and special reports about diseases, conditions, tests, injuries and surgeries.Useful information, tools, and links to organizations around the Web.FollowAdvertisement
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