I have always wondered why kids particularly like my company. I get the pulling of hair, the feet in my face, all that, without any qualms and I love it.
In the company of kids, I can be 100% that what I see is what I get! And so as a mother, aunty, family friend, name it, I get to hear and see things that will make the everyday Ghanaian parent go deep blue. Sometimes I struggle between what I should let the mostly seemingly clueless parents know. Most of the time I tend to deal with issues myself and the parent who lives in the glass castle hopefully will never get a sniff of the storm that just went by.
But most importantly, this is why I love kids; the innocence, the sponge-like template of their minds, the creative mind without boundaries and barriers, the innovative mindset. A kid can bend a spoon with their mind in seconds if they focus! Do you believe it? You too can, until life got to you. Children take me back to a childhood I never really got past.
Recently I have been privileged to spend a little more time with children and as we all know, children are now wired to electronics like nobody’s business and so we get to watch television.
Sooner or later, one can not tell who is the child here. I am as much engrossed as they are in the cartons or live-action movie or series.
This weekend, I noticed one of my kids turn away from a kissing scene. Pretending to pick something from under the table that lasted for exactly the same length of time as the action continued on the screen. I hid a smile in my cheek. We have all done this before. Before then, one of my kids had kissed me on the mouth and asked if I will be her valentine. ‘I am your valentine forever my love’ I responded. But she responded with, ‘but I have a valentine at school, he is a boy in my class’…
Anyways, I digress. ‘This program isn’t really meant for kids, let’s find something more appropriate, shall we?’ ‘Netflix!’ They all scream. One show after the other, it was either swearing or speaking about love or some other thing that still made me itch. I searched for something with black characters, I practically find none! Even the animals somehow look white.
My own kids are grown now you see. I used to hustle over black dolls versus white dolls for my growing girls and messaging and self-worth and all that crap. They are now grown-up young women who carry their blackness with pride. Job done I thought. Not so fast!
Let’s go to Ghana television. The unison in the No! That followed my comment said it all. ‘Hey, we are in Ghana and so we must watch Ghana, eat Ghana, wear Ghana!’ I insist. For at least this weekend ok? ‘Ok, Aunty! But there is nothing on Ghana TV!’
I forced myself through Ghana television this weekend. The entire weekend, I searched for programming for kids. It is almost impossible to find.
Where one can find, it is littered with things children shouldn’t be hearing or seeing. What worries me the most though, is that in a Black country in Africa, I couldn’t find even one cartoon or live-action programming made with a character who is black or has black hair thick hair or skin.
Nothing on Ghana television is targeting Ghanaian kids that even teaches about our environments and who we are. The folklores, rich cultural themes! But perhaps I am old fashioned.
So forget about heritage! Where are the programs that teach our kids that people that look like them can go into space? Can do well in technology and be the best creatives in the world? Can we not find anything locally to make good content from that inspires our young ones into the future?
This month, Ghanaians have been happy about an American woman who attended the University of Ghana and who just returned from space! We have taken great pride in tagging ourselves to her. Have we asked ourselves what happens to the minds of all the black skin that also go to Legon such that they can’t even manage earth?
I get it that whiles paying US$100 to purchase a carton from the US, which business person, TV station or Ghanaian producer wants to spend US$20,000 on local content when they can get the programs that are even better packaged for less than US$500?
Let me take the time to commend the few channels TRYING! Albeit, just trying!
But I wonder if we have taken the time to look at the real cost of our decisions and inactions. What is the cost of this US$100 content in real terms to Ghana over time? Can you name some?
I worry that parents stay away from this conversation. Is it that we feel that we are powerless and that our voices don’t count? Or is it laziness on our part? Let’s just let the TV business people decide for us what our children watch. Then we can blame them one day for whatever. We are too busy to do anything ourselves.
Children are like sponges. Whatever you feed them, that is what they will grow to become. Every once in a while there is an outlier from the group, but the probability that what we will see tomorrow is children who continue to have very low self-image and crave to be something else with different skin and hair and who therefore can never see value in who they are or where they are and who will continue to look outside to solve internal problems is very high.
This weekend at a funeral in the hot sun, some cool dudes were sitting by me. They both had bleached skin that was quarrelling with the sun.
Tell me who you think is winning this quarrel? Skin or sun?
Juliet Yaa Asantewa Asante