"The child means the family, the child means the future, the child
means the community. Our goal is to strengthen our understanding of African families and institutions so that they in turn can invest in their future, their children.
" -- Steve Howard, Editor, CAJ

Childhood in Africa: An Interdisciplinary Journal


Childhood in Africa:
An Interdisciplinary Journal

Volume 3, Issue 1 • Fall 2013

ISSN 1948-6502 (online)


On behalf of the Institute for the African Child I would like to extend a sincere apology for the remarkable delay in getting this third issue of Childhood in Africa on-line. I am particularly anguished about the contributors to the journal who have waited most patiently for us to edit and upload your articles. I have, of course, many fine excuses as to why this issue has taken so long, but then I consider what is available to scholars of African children for publication outlets, and I see some correlation. full text PDF

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"The Children Who Became The Black-Coated Workers of Bathurst": A Study of An African Colonial City, Bathurst, c1929-1941

Assan Sarr
Ohio University

Between 1929 and 1941, life in the West African colonial city of Bathurst, Gambia, was difficult. Parents and guidance faced ubiquitous challenges in providing for their families. Due to the depressed economic circumstances of their time, exemplified by the fluctuation in educational spending in the mission and government run schools and the larger colonial economy, parents began pulling their children out of the schools so the latter can look for low-paying jobs to assist their families. One consequences of this was that between 1930 and 1941 it was relatively difficult to find students with certificates higher than Standard VII certificates. This paper draws from colonial reports to analyze childhood and education in the Gambian colony between the 1930s and 1940s.
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Youth and Currency Counterfeiting at Crossroad with Special Reference to Mutengene (Cham), South-West Cameroon

Flavius M. Mokake*
Ohio University

This essay examines the involvement of youth in counterfeiting and uttering of the Franc CFA in Cameroon, and the response of state authorities. In particular, it establishes a connection between ‘shrinking possibilities’ and youth criminality. In this regard, it contextualises the preponderant involvement of the youth in the circulation of forged money in Mutengene, a junction town in the South West Region (SWR) of Cameroon. It shows that lapses in security strategies and nuances in the country’s penal legal arsenals are possible explanations for the persistence of currency counterfeiting which greatly hampers the town’s economy and social relations. The association of fake money with Mutengene has scarred the town’s image. It must be disclaimed, however, that not all Mutengene youth are involved in counterfeiting, and Mutengene is not the only town in which counterfeits or counterfeiting pass as an ‘illegal-legal tender’ or has become a form of accumulation. Finally, I argue that this symbolises cracks on the walls of effective political and economic governance and epitomises a response to the denial of the basic rights to access decent jobs or have better life that, even with the reintroduction of popular democracy, has not been able to successfully reverse the situation in the country.       

Keywords: Counterfeit, Currency, Economy, Mutengene, Uttering, Youth

* B.A. History and Political Science (University of Buea); M.A. History (University of Buea); M.A. International Affairs – concentration African Studies (Ohio University, USA); Currently  a PhD student in an Interdisciplinary Program (Ohio University).
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Caring and caning – Luo children’s perceptions of respect and reciprocity

Jens Aagaard-Hansen
Steno Health Promotion Center
Steno Diabetes Center, Niels Steensensvej 2-4, 2820 Gentofte, Denmark

The article explores Luo children’s perceptions of the people they like and respect and the ones that they dislike and disrespect. It is shown how the relationships can be characterized by Sahlins’ analytical concepts of generalized and negative reciprocity. The persons that the children like are predominantly parents or age mates and the reasons given emphasize the tangible and intangible gifts and services rendered. The disliked persons are mostly non-kin children and adults. Stealing and beating as well as other perceived injustices are mentioned as main causes. However, caning is perceived not only as a negative action conducted by the disliked persons, but also as an accepted disciplinary sanction. The findings show the basic elements of the moral economy of reciprocity among the Luo children as it is often sanctioned by references to Christian values.
Keywords: children, exchange, Kenya, Luo, reciprocity, respect.

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Author biography: The author has a double education as anthropologist and medical doctor. He has been engaged in anthropological research on childhood and medical anthropology in eastern Africa during the past 17 years, as well as institutional capacity building and training of a large number of African and European anthropologists.

Health and Disease Symptomology in Luo Children

Amy M. Zidron
West Virginia University Children’s Hospital

Gillian Ice, PhD, MPH
Associate Professor, Department of Social Medicine, and African Studies, Ohio University
Director, Global Health for the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and College of Health Sciences and Professions, Ohio University
Adjunct Professor, Anthropology Department, Ohio State University

Elizabeth Juma, MD
Senior Research Officer and Public Health Specialist, Kenya Medical Research Institute

Objectives: This paper examines the impact of orphanhood on the health of Kenyan Luo children through the use of a clinical history and physical exam. Orphans were hypothesized to have poorer health than non-orphans; differences were expected in both males and females.
Methods: Four hundred eleven Luo children (9±1 yr), residing in western Kenya were recruited to participate in a cross-sectional study examining health via a structured clinical history and physical exam. 
Results: Using a t-test as the method of analysis, no significant differences in the clinical history and physical exam were found between the two groups of male children or the two groups of female children. 
Discussion: Results from this study suggest that Luo children would benefit from health education as well as prevention and treatment for parasitic and fungal infections.

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Surveying Epistemology: Discursive Impacts on the African Understanding of Childhood Stories

Francis Semwaza
Ohio University

In this paper, I argue that the evolutionary processes that Africa has been going through translate into the worsening childhood conditions the continent is presently experiencing. By surveying literature on children before, during and after colonization of the continent, it becomes a necessity to further conclude that of the remnants of colonial discourses, ‘othering’ ourselves remains pervasive to the extent that we disown our children from the way we talk to the way we act. In its totality, this leads to incompetent and malfunctioning plans and policies designed to address the worsening children’s conditions in contemporary Africa.  

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Mothers in Distress: Cases from the Maternal-Child Mental Health Consultation Service, Liberia, West Africa

Authors and Affiliations

Amy S. Aloysi, M.D., M.P.H.
Assistant Clinical Professor
Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
One Gustave L. Levy Place
New York, NY 10029

Diana Samuel
, M.D.
PGY-IV Psychiatry Resident
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Jan Schuetz-Mueller
, M.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychiatry
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Rodney D. Presley
, M.S.W.
Program Director & Development Manager
John F. Kennedy Medical Center/Grant Mental Health Hospital
Monrovia, Liberia

Janice Cooper
, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Emory University
Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Liberia
Country Representative for Health & MH Project Lead
The Carter Center

Craig L. Katz
, M.D.
Associate Clinical Professor
Departments of Psychiatry and Medical Education 
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
The authors wish to acknowledge the work of the MH Clinicians, Comfort Badio, RN, MHC and Yeplen Miapeh, RN, MHC


Maternal health and well-being have a direct impact on the welfare of the child, as caregiver distress contributes to morbidity in the child. Liberia’s under-five mortality rate is improving dramatically but remains high: as of 2010, 1 in 10 children still die before the age of five. Psychosocial factors contribute to a child’s increased risk for malnutrition, neglect, and infectious diseases.  Among these risk factors is maternal mental health. 

We present three cases from our work on the recently established maternal-child mental health consultation service at JFK Hospital in Monrovia Liberia. The consultation service, which began operations in April 2011, is operated by trained mental health clinicians (MHC’s) supervised onsite and remotely via teleconferences with members of our team. The mental health clinicians routinely round on the Pediatrics and Maternity wards at JFK Hospital, the main medical center in Monrovia. By virtue of their integrated presence in the hospital, the stigma of mental health care is reduced and those at risk have access to needed services that they might not otherwise receive or engage in. 

These cases illustrate how addressing psychosocial stressors and the mental health of mothers can improve the welfare of both the mother and the child.  Common psychosocial factors include food insecurity, financial pressures, gender inequality, lack of access to contraception and unwanted fertility, intimate partner violence, childhood sexual abuse, psychological trauma, including stillbirths and infant deaths. The population still struggles with effects of the years of devastating civil war, which ended in 2003. The mental health clinicians staffing the maternal child consultation service provide counseling, emotional support and empowerment for women, often adolescents themselves, who are coping with the serious illness of their child or complications of a pregnancy. We illustrate how a mental health screening evaluation and referral for co-localized ongoing care made during an acute hospital stay has the potential to simultaneously address MDGs 4 and 5: reducing under-5 mortality and improving maternal health.

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