SPIDER’S WEB with CHEELA CHILALA
ONE of the aims of this column is to motivate individuals to dream big and work hard to achieve their dreams. Which is why I get encouraged each time I receive positive feedback from a reader. On the other hand, I get disheartened when I see individuals whose future is destroyed or potential wasted because of lack of vision, focus or self-discipline. I get even more disheartened, though, whenever I come across a child or youth whose potential and possibly future are wasted because of lack of parental care.
Take, for instance, the story of the little boy I encountered during my years as an undergraduate student at the University of Zambia (UNZA). My two close friends and I came across the little boy â€“ ten years old or thereabout â€“ sitting on campus grounds with a plate asking for alms.
The three of us had created some kind of emergency fund towards which we each contributed an agreed amount from our government bursaries. However, the fund swelled because none of us ever had an emergency that required the use of the money.
Saddened by the boyâ€™s situation, as we felt he should have been in school, we decided to help. So we went with him to his home located in the nearby Ngâ€™ombe compound where, as it turned out, he lived with his mother and younger brother.
We told the woman â€“ who though older than us was still young â€“ that we were concerned that her son was begging for alms instead of being in school. She told us she was a single mother who could not afford to send her children to school; neither could she afford to feed them. She added that it was poverty that made her send her son onto the streets to beg. We asked her what we could do to help so that she could then pull her son off the streets and send him to school. She said she needed money to start a small business and buy food. Together we worked out the estimated cost and gave her the needed amount before leaving, feeling satisfied and happy that we had helped a poor family. We were especially delighted that she promised to keep the boy off the streets.
The following morning, however, as I walked to the bus station from my room, I was shocked to see the same little boy, in the same spot on campus grounds, begging for alms with the same plate! I looked at him.
He looked at me and looked away, ashamed. I was too shocked and pained to say anything to him or ask any questions. I proceeded to the bus station with a heavy heart. My friends could not believe it when I told them the boy was back on campus.
What pained us was not so much the fact that we gave away a handsome amount we had saved through sacrifice. It was rather the realisation that the boyâ€™s mother had deceived us and abused our generosity.
It was difficult for us to understand; it is still difficult for me to understand: How could a loving mother send her son onto the streets to beg even when help had been provided? Didnâ€™t she see the importance of sending her child to school and keeping him off the streets?
How could the child dream of becoming anything of substance in life if his own mother was turning him into a beggar at that early age?
How could his talents and potential be harnessed when he was not in school? How could a mother do that to her own child, all for the love of money? Could such a child develop a dream beyond begging?
SPIDER’S WEB with CHEELA CHILALA