Njundu Drammeh

On 15th May, is the International Day of the Family, a day set aside by the UN GA for States and peoples to not only celebrate the family but also to support and strengthen it, to gain and promote an accurate understanding of family issues, to initiate and execute activities to address these issues, particularly at the local, national and international levels, and to create institutional capabilities for implementing changes at all levels that strengthen the family.

The family, ostensibly the smallest but the most fundamental unit of society, is the first school of every child. It plays a key role in our socialization and ensures the survival, development, protection and participation of every child. Growing up in a family environment that is full of happiness, love, protection, security and understanding ensure that we acquire an all-rounded development of our potentialities and personalities. Thus, our States should accord the family the widest possible protection and assistance so that it may fully assume its responsibilities towards children and of its role in providing appropriate direction and guidance to them.

A closer look at the family of the present shows it is not what it used to be; its situation is more precarious than ever before. It has fallen between modernity and tradition, and unable to be in tandem with either. Deepened poverty, deprivation, social exclusion, inequities and lack of access to social services and amenities, is making families dysfunctional and incapable of providing for its members.

A family that just scrapes by or lives on a shoestring budget cannot be expected to provide decent living to its children, however much it may want to or wish. Our social security systems are either weak, inadequate or non-existence and the social protection schemes are at their nascent stage, conditional cash transfers notwithstanding.

Our State, as the primary duty bearers, need to do more for families. It is unacceptable that there is a family in the back waters of The Gambia that cannot assure its children a stable, warm and happy childhood or a guaranteed future in adulthood, or provide the barest minimums. It is unacceptable that in the face of our extravagancy and spending on defence and State House, overseas travels, unwieldy State machinery, countless children die before their fifth birthday, mothers die of preventable pre and post natal complications, education quality is at its lowest ebb, families cannot predict what the next day hold for them or be assured of a better future.

One thing I am sure as day is day: countries that are progressing on all fronts are enormously investing in their children and families. That is the surest thoroughfare to development. We neglect the family, and by extension the children, at our own peril. These children, who we proudly call our future, will be either/or: our statesmen, employers and productive work force or our highway robbers, drug addicts, petty thieves and war lords.

The choices we make for them today will greatly determine what they become in the future. But much, it is a future we would also live in, as grand parents, uncles, aunts retired workers, etc. Thus our lives, as adults, are intertwined with that of our children. We betray them today, we live in an unprotected future.

To predict the future of a country, look at how it treats its children, what investments it makes in their early childhood, what protection and support it gives to the family.

To understand the behaviour of the adults, trace their childhood, look into their early childhood.