This morning as I contemplate on the next project in my life – exploring the possibility of forming a primary school based on Accelerative Learning principles in East Timor – I went into the depths of my own unconscious and thought about being Chinese and how we view children.
Long time ago when I read a poem by Kalil Gibran (The Prophet), it moved me greatly when he said that our children do not belong to us – they are on loan to us. They are given to us for only a short time. This idea of children is so freeing that it remains with me throughout my life, not only with children, but also with adults. Children, the little humans that they are, grow with love and true love is always freeing. We love in order to free another! We do not love another to hold and to keep!
Chinese often see their children as investments. This view actually gave my father a lot of strife. As he ploughed to and fro across the strip of no man’s land from Northern Malaysia into southern Thailand for business, he would tell people and sometimes strangers that he had five investments. This then would be followed by a discussion on the returns on his investments. One day he was kidnapped by Thai Muslim secessionists, for they thought he was a wealthy man. They demanded a quarter million Malaysian dollars in 1978! Well, it emerged that he was talking about his five children. My father, typically Confucianist and therefore pragmatic, saw his children as investments for the future, his old age. What he did not take into account was the fact that for many years, we were non-performing assets. Traditional Chinese still see their children as caretakers for their old age, and for many of these people, putting their ‘oldies’ in nursing homes is still frowned upon. The complexities of this perspective is worthy of contemplation since it is a package made up of money, time and love. In terms of having children, where do money, time and love for our children begin and end? I will leave the answers to this question for future debates. However, for my very personal view on children, I share with all of you my biennial message to Tadika Krisalis, the kindergarten I helped formed in Malaysia based on Accelerative Learning principles. Below is an abbreviated version of my message –
Message From Dr Moni Lai Storz,
The Success Of A Nation – Our Children’s Health, Body, Mind, And Spirit
Forty five percent of children under twelve in East Timor are undernourished and in the world, 15,000 children die daily from starvation! When I read such statistics, I think of Malaysia and how fortunate we are as a nation – there is always hawkers stalls in the streets, coffee shops, coconuts in the trees, fish in the sea and of course, at home where loving parents fill their fridges with all sorts of goodies. Born in Malaysia many years ago, as a child, I remember how chubby I was and now in middle age, I have to be constantly on diet to be healthy! How ironic. However, obese children have become a major problem in many rich societies. In Malaysia, some children are displaying signs of the growing wealth of the nation. They are fatter than kids of my generation, i.e. the post baby boomers.
The health of a child should be the primary concern of any nation – even more important than education. After that comes education. As educators, I find that our responsibility is no longer confined to the shaping of young minds but also their bodies
Having a healthy mind and body is also connected to their emotional wellbeing. Every child needs love. How they are loved is critical to their health. This brings to mind the famous Harlow experiments with monkeys. When baby monkeys were deprived of cuddles (loving attention) from their mothers, they turn pathological. So how much more a human child? Loving a child comes in many guises. Loving children and showing them is an important way to develop their mental and physical well being. This is often overlooked. When children are starved for love and attention (like adults), their spirit is low and even when they are grown up, there is a big hole in their hearts!
I have always believed that our children’s health – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual – is the true measurement of a family, a school and therefore a nation’s success.
I wish all the students, teachers, and parents of Tadika Krisaliz the very best for contributing to the nation’s development and growth through their learning, teaching and caring.