Johannesburg – VIJAY SHAH via CHRIS BAYNES and The Independent
A winner of the Miss South Africa beauty pageant has sparked controversy after visiting a home for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS while wearing protective gloves, the Independent newspaper of Britain reported today.
Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters visited a soup kitchen in the major city of Johannesburg to meet with the orphans. She was seen wearing gloves, which have led observers to accuse her of being racist. She was handing out hot meals to the orphans as part of the Winter Soup Drive charity event at the Ikageng community centre in Johannesburg, organised by the city’s Maslow Hotel. The Miss South Africa, aged 22 and of mixed heritage, however insisted the gloves were worn for hygienic reasons as she was working with food. On Twitter, Nel-Peters showed herself sitting down on steps with some of the Ikageng orphans, eating soup and bread rolls with them.
The picture shows Nel-Peters wearing what appears to be white latex surgical gloves as she eats a roll. It sparked a backlash from other Twitter users who claimed Nel-Peters was being racist or that she was afraid of being ‘contaminated’ by the children, many of whom had lost parents to HIV/AIDS or suffered from the virus themselves. South Africa has one of the world’s highest numbers of infected people. The 2007 UNAIDS report estimated that 5,700,000 South Africans had HIV/AIDS, or just under 12% of South Africa’s population of 48 million.
One Twitter user wrote: “I want to know why she would put on latex gloves to touch black children.” Another said: “I really can’t believe ‘our’ Miss SA is wearing latex so that she can touch these kids!” A third suggested she wore gloves “to protect herself from black kids” because she feared they would “contaminate her”. The backlash soon grew into a Twitter hashtag competition, #MissSAChallenge, which went viral this past Thursday, where users began posting pictures of themselves wearing white latex gloves, making fun of the beauty queen’s decision.
Some posted photos of themselves wearing gloves to type at a desk, make a drink, and read a book.
The Ikageng centre has spoken out against the challenge. Its programme director, Carol Dyanti, said “All volunteers, including our staff members, wore gloves during the food preparation. It was mandatory.
“It was such successful day and I am sorry that the focus is now on the glovs (sic) rather than the positive impact it had.”
Nel-Peters also spoke out against the controversy, stating in the Independent story via an uploaded video on Twitter: “We were handing out food to young kids and that was the only intention with wearing the gloves.
“It was purely to be as hygienic as possible. I really feel like my intention were really misunderstood but I would like to apologise if I offended anyone.”
Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, who was born in Sedgefield in the Western Cape province in 1995, is a model who was crowned Miss South Africa this year and will go on to represent the country at the Miss World and Miss Universe pageants this year. Latex gloves are often worn by people working in catering and hospitality, as well as in the medical field, for reasons of hygiene and safety.
The outbreak occurred in the town of Gaya in Bihar state, which lies around 100 kilometres from the state capital Patna.
Acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) is a severe inflammation of the brain caused by a variety of pathogens including viruses, bacteria, fungi and brain-dwelling parasites. In adults, AES can cause fever, headaches, confusion, and occassionally, seizures. In children, the most reported symptoms are irritability, poor appetite and drowsiness.
It is not yet known which pathogen is responsible for today’s outbreak.
In June 2014, a similar AES incident in the city of Muzaffarpur, also in Bihar, claimed the lives of 30 people, including several children, which was blamed on poor environmental hygiene and lack of ‘proper food’, according to the Times of India.
Pupils from the Ellen WilkinsonPrimary School and Children’s Centre, off Tollgate Road in the south of the borough, got together with parents and teachers to collect old and unwanted clothes for the charity. Eleven children from the ‘We Day‘ citizenship group at the school took on the responsibility of going around classes and encouraging fellow students to rummage through their wardrobes and cellars for clothes they no longer wanted.
Charity Clothes Aid, who were also involved in the garments drive, then pooled all the clothes gathered from Ellen Wilkinson pupils and parents together and were able to net an impressive £285, which will be donated to the Tuberous Sclerosis Association, which was launched in 1977 to support sufferers of this genetic condition and their families. The TSA was chosen by the students to be the beneficiary of their clothes collection donations.
Lara, one pupil at the school said to the Newham Mag:“I have now learned what helping charities means and I would like to help others in future”. Her classmate Alexandra added: “I would really love to do this again because helping others makes you feel better”
Tuberous sclerosis is a rare genetic condition that causes benign tumours to develop in the body, especially in the brain, heart, eyes, kidneys and lungs. Although not fatal in itself, tuberous sclerosis can cause complications such as epilepsy, learning disabilities, kidney disease and heart problems, and there is currently no cure.
If you are residing in London, UK. and wish to set up your own clothes collections for charity, please call the Clothes Aid helpline on 020 7288 8545 or visit www.clothesaid.co.uk
“Rags to riches” – The Newham Mag <Issue 313>, Newham Council (10 April 2015)
In warmer climes, the tree makes a good spot for idle chit-chat and outdoor picnics, not forgetting to mention its natural beauty and life-giving properties, but a Surrey primary school has given a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘tree of learning’, while honouring the nation’s Olympic legacy at the same time.
Three years after London played host to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, with its spectacular opening and closing ceremonies masterfully organised by 28 Days Later and Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle, Epsom Primary & Nursery School has transformed one of the artificial oak trees used at London 2012 into a learning suite for its 547 pupils.
As part of the redevelopment at the school, which caters for children aged 3-16, the oak was taken out of storage and donated by the company that made it specially for the elaborate opening ceremony three years ago in Stratford, east London. The school then undertook an educational project over fifteen months to incorporate the tree into a new ‘learning suite’ with modern interactive technology for pupils to enhance their learning. The new facility, dubbed the “Enchanted Learning & Technology Suite” drew inspiration from the Enid Blyton children’s classic stories compilation Magic Faraway Tree, a favourite of the school’s deputy head teacher, as well as Epsom School’s emblem, a green stylised tree.
On the new suite’s opening at the school in Pound Lane, Epsom on the 18th March, which was covered by the local newspaper, the Epsom Guardian , children sat on specially-designed tree stumps to read books under the Olympic learning tree. In its earlier role at the critically acclaimed Olympic Games ceremony, the tree was seen rising out of a mound of grassy earth representing Glastonbury Tor, as more than a billion people watched Danny Boyle’s ceremony to kick off the London games.Workers streamed out from beneath the roots as the tree was lifted into the air and ‘an industrial revolution transformed the rural scenery’. The oak traditionally has a long association with British culture and was revered as a sacred tree by the Celts.
The tree once again takes centre stage after it was converted into a nature-themed staircase by local architects. Pupils can ‘climb’ up the learning tree to reach a mezzanine floor where the suite is located. Once there, they can access technology such as e-readers and tablets to reinforce classroom learning or do homework. Other uses planned for the suite and its accompanying tree include as a base for after-school clubs, breakfast clubs and as a facility for drama classes and computer activities.
“Securing the Olympic tree was the icing on the cake for our new library project. We wanted the new room to ignite a love of reading in the school – we couldn’t have asked for a more magical design. The tree was given to the school by Souvenir Scenic Solutions, the specialist company who built it for the Olympics, we are so grateful for their support and generosity.“
Simon Kenny, a specialist working with the scenery builders told how his team assembled the tree to accommodate the space within the new library as well as creating the stumps.
He said: “We were happy to donate the labour and time to the school because we want to support education in these hard times. We are very happy for the tree to have another life.
“It was great to see everybody’s faces and how excited they were. The room they created is like a magic world.“
The library has been created to ensure current and future generations of students at Epsom Primary School develop a love of reading and research. Additional funding for the construction of the learning and technology suite came from the School Commissioning and Early Years Education Departments at Surrey Borough Council, the local authority administering the school.
The parents of a six-year old American schoolchild are up in arms against the child’s school after teachers punished the boy for being late to lessons, by making him eat his lunch behind a cardboard screen while forced to sit on a separate table from other children.
Hunter Cmelo’s parents, from Grant’s Pass in Oregon, were running late when they managed to take the first-grader to Lincoln Elementary School, the local primary school in the town. Teachers there punished Hunter by seating him on an unoccupied bench with a folded piece of cardboard shielding him from the eyes of his schoolmates. A set of polystyrene cups with the letter ‘D’ – standing for detention – scrawled on one of them was also placed near Hunter as he sat down to eat.
Pictures of the incident were put up on Facebook by Hunter’s grandmother Laura Hoover, who commented in the British newspaper site of Metro “This is my grandson, Hunter. He’s a little first grader“.
“His momma’s car sometimes doesn’t like to start right up. Sometimes he’s a couple of minutes late to school.
‘Yesterday, he was 1 minute late and this is what his momma discovered they do to punish him! They have done this to him 6 times for something that is out of his control! They make a mockery of him in front of the other students.”
The harsh punishment of being segregated from friends at lunchtime has caused considerable distress to Hunter, who was on one occasion taken home in tears by his mother, Nicole Garloff. Hunter’s father, Mark Cmelo, said to local television station KOIN6: “They are shaming him for something that’s not in his control.” Hunter’s parents are reported to be devastated at the treatment of their son by the school.
His mother said the punishment has left her son anxious about attending school, and that a few days ago, he began ‘flipping out’ because they were running late for the school journey. She said that she has experienced car troubles and suffers from the brittle bone condition osteoporosis, which can set her back in the mornings. “It causes a lot of pain and in the mornings it’s especially hard for me to get going,” she said, according to the Daily Mailnewspaper.
Lincoln Elementary School have agreed to stop using the cardboard partition in light of the Cmelos’ complaint, but have not said if they will end the policy of separating late students at lunchtime and forcing them to eat alone. According to the Daily Mail, the school received hundreds of complaints and threats after the incident went viral on social media.
A spokesman for the school district said: “The parents’ concerns were politely discussed and, ultimately, the issues were resolved to the satisfaction of both parents and the school. All parties involved believe that an appropriate resolution has been reached.“
Meanwhile, the school’s superintendent John Higgins, who received a barrage of threatening phone calls, told Newswatch 12 that the “protocol was communicated to parents via newsletter and is intended to provide the students with an above average level of tardiness, supervised additional learning time in a non-distracting setting,
‘It was never intended to isolate or stigmatize students.“
Principal Missy Fitzsimmons reached out to Hunter’s parents and arranged a meeting this past Thursday to hear the parents’ concerns, including ceasing use of the cardboard partition. Fitzsimmons said: “We are pleased to report the meeting was productive,“
‘The parents’ concerns were politely discussed and, ultimately, the issues were resolved to the satisfaction of both parents and the school. All parties involved believe that an appropriate resolution has been reached.”
The school has a roll call of 444 pupils and forms part of the Grant’s Pass School District 7 administration in the Oregon town.
British tabloidMetroreports that five years from now an astonishing ninety per cent of six year olds will have their ownmobile phones, according to a prediction in a study commissioned by a leadingtelecommunications company. The statistic is said to come from a paper on global communications by SwedishhandsetmanufacturerEricsson, which also predicts that the pinnacle of the ‘communications boom’ that has characterised the industry for the past fifteen years is in fact yet to happen. Other media have reported however, that the figure of ninety per cent refers to the world’s population from the age of six onwards.
As more parents adopt advancedmobile technology, many of them are also introducing young children to smartphones in particular, as they are useful as playing devices for games and educational apps, as well as keeping youngsters from hassling busy and stressed parents. As more and more children experience mobile technology from toddler-age onwards, the reluctance of parents to gift phones to younger children will decrease. Even as more and more junior schoolers do own their own gadgets, a lot of parents are also increasingly concerned by the trend for younger and younger children to possess mobiles, as studies have found that increasing exposure to social networking sites and the internet are causing children to mature faster, as well as causing tough issues regarding child protection. The majority of parents in a recent poll byBullGuardadmitted they worry their children are growing up too quickly, and 77 per cent blamed the web. They attributed this accelerated maturity, in particular, to peer pressure from friends and schoolmates, the vast amount of information they see online, and social networks – according to a news report by independent siteNyoozTrend.
Rima Qureshi,Senior Vice PresidentandChief Strategy Officerat Ericsson said: “The falling cost of handsets, coupled with improved usability and increasing network coverage, are factors that are making mobile technology a global phenomenon that will soon be available to the vast majority of the world’s population, regardless of age or location.
“The Ericsson Mobility Report shows that in 2020 the world will be connected like never before.“
The Mobility Report, which tracks trends around mobiles, data and networks worldwide, suggests that the number ofsmartphonesin use globally will explode by 2020. Currently there are 2.7 billion in circulation today, mainly indeveloped countriessuch asthe USandJapan, but the growth of both wealth and mobile phone markets in developing countries will cause the smartphone population to swell to 6.1 billion. In 2014 alone, there have been 800 million new smartphone subscriptions worldwide, with India and China seeing the greatest expansion in new customers.
The company also expectspeople’s phonehabits to change, with customers more like to use their handsets to send videos instead of texts, asvideo recordingcapacity inevitably improves. Fifty-five per cent of mobile data sent acrossmobile networksis expected to be video footage. Web browsing using inbuilt browsers on mobile phones will fare less well. Ericsson predicts mobile surfing to decline in importance as users make the jump to smart televisions and tablets.
“The relative share of traffic generated byweb browsingwill have declined by 2020 as a result of stronger growth in categories such as video and social networking. Consumer preferences are shifting towards more video and app-based mobile use relative to web browsing,” the company said.
“Many smartphones now have larger screens, enabling higher picture quality for streamed video. Video content is increasingly appearing as part of other online applications; for example, news, advertisements, and social media.”
Inthe United Kingdom, it is estimated that three-quarters of children aged ten own a mobile phone, according to the Daily Mail, that is twice as many as children in other countries. A third of under-tens keep a mobile, usually paid for by parents or carers. The BBC gives figures that ninety per cent of UK 11-16 year olds own a mobile, with ten per cent of teenagers spending more than forty-five minutes a day making voice calls. A study by comparison website USwitch.com, also in the UK, claims that nearly one in ten children receive their first phone by the age of five – with the average parent spending £125 on their child’s handset plus £11 per month on credit.
“ALL SIDES IN ALL WARS NEED TO STOP KILLING/ TARGETING CHILDREN.
God bless the children in war zones …”
Today’s photo was shared on Facebook by my cousin. A devout Sikh man silently protests against the killing of children in wars across the globe. His placard, written in thick black marker pen on a piece of paper, reads: “Please STOP killing children in wars created by grown men!! – @Khalsa_Aid “
Khalsa Aid is an international non-profit organisation and humanitarian charity founded in 1999 according to the Sikh principle of ‘seva‘ or selfless service onto others. Drawing inspiration from one of the original ten holy gurus of Sikhism, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, Khalsa Aid follows his teaching that Sikhs should “recognise the entire human race as one”. The charity first saw action during the Kosovo war of 1999, when a call was answered to send volunteers to the stricken ethnic Albanian population there who were being persecuted by the Yugoslav army under then president Slobodan Milosevic. Two trucks and a van with aid donated by the Sikh community in the UK were driven all the way to Kosovo.
Since then, Khalsa Aid have helped the victims of wars and disasters in places as diverse as Syria, Haiti, Libya, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition to war and disaster, the charity’s volunteers, who often offer their assistance with immediate short notice, also take part in anti-drug programmes, art therapy and helping on water purifications projects.
Currently the conflicts in Syria and in Palestine has seen children suffer inexorably. In Syria, where numerous rebel factions are fighting a protracted war against the government, it has been estimated by the Oxford Research Group think tank that 11,000 young Syrians have perished in the three years since hostilities began. The situation has seen thousands of families flee into neighbouring countries where children are crammed into makeshift refugee camps with little food or educational facilities. Many have been traumatised by the horrors they witnessed, seeing family members slaughtered in front of them or the relentless sounds of bombing and gunfire. The deliberate targeting and summary of Syrian children, especially young boys, has become so perverse in its frequency, that one BBC journalist described the targeted torturing and killing as “a war on childhood”.
Meanwhile the recent flare-up of tension between Israel and Palestine has already seen whole families wiped out by missiles, while the latest phase of the decades-long tension began when three Israeli seminary students were abducted by an unknown militant group and murdered. In a retaliatory attack, a Palestinian teenager was abducted and then set on fire alive. As Israel mounts operations against Hamas rocket launching sites with the Gaza Strip, their disproportionate approach has seen children in Gaza bear the brunt. A recent incident that saw widespread condemnation was the shelling of four boys from the same family who were playing a cops-and-robbers style game on a beach.While enjoying a moment of peace from the sounds of falling bombs, a warship positioned in the Mediterranean sea caught sight of them and began firing. All four died, while in the aftermath the Israel military claimed that it thought the boys were militants launching an attack on them.
There are hundred of armed conflicts still going on, where children pay the ultimate price. Raped, murdered, abused, and even enlisted as soldiers themselves, war becomes a very horrible and soul-destroying place. For tens of thousands of children across the world, childhood isn’t fun and games. What should have beeen an idyllic time of happiness and smiles instead becomes one of tears and pain. No war ever begun because of a child, but it is they who suffer the most.
TheLVRPAare offering a huge choice of affordable sports programmes to keep children occupied during the long six-week break. You can choose from hour-long taster sessions in four types of cycling, one-day sports activity camps and training sessions for cycling, hockey and tennis, as part of the Olympic legacy events being hosted atQueen Elizabeth Olympic Parkin Stratford,Newham, east London – to encourage children and adults to make sports an important part of their lives. The Authority also has other events running in Hertfordshire, Essex andLeyton – all within easy driving distance. Visitors to the Home Counties sites, near the leafy park that straddles the River Lee, can also experience water rafting, kayaking, rambling, boating, pony treks, farms and ice-skating rinks in a friendly and natural setting, perfect during these long summer days. Interested parentsare encouragedto book places early as spotsare limited.
At the Lee ValleyVeloParkat the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, would-beBradley Wiggins, LauraTrottsand bike-mad kids generally cantry outdifferent styles of cycling at thespecially designedpark and courses. You can choose from holiday clubs specialising inBMX, mountain biking, road or track cycling. Children will learn to build their confidence on two wheelsand alsolearn how to safely handle their bikes with adult supervision. They will be pumping their pedals and tackling berms on theBMX track, developing the control of a road bike on the flat and how to execute safe climbs and descents on mountain bikes. They can even discover the secrets of velodrome racing, just like theUK cyclingteam. Prices start from £4.00.
If you are looking to keep your kids occupiedthe wholeday, both theVeloParkand the nearby Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre are organising sports activities day camps at £30 per child per day. Inspire your childto bethe next Olympian by enrolling them on the camp where they will get to enjoy a fun-filled day trying their hands at threeOlympic sports– BMX, tennis and hockey – in the former home of London 2012. With the help ofexperiencedcoaches, kids can learn the basics of these sports and help them pick up the skills that could make them into future Olympic champions. The Day Camps are open to children of all ages.
The Hockey & Tennis Centre are also offering tennis-only sessions to inspire kids in the spirit of that greatest tennis tournament of all, Wimbledon. The centre has both outdoor as well as indoor courts so you do not have to worry about theunpredictableBritish weather. The centre has four indoor courts, whichcan behired from £15 per session. If you want to feel the wind in your hair, you can book one of the six outdoor courts from only £8 per session, whether it is for a gentleknockaboutor competitive matches that would makeNadalorSharapovasweat. The courts are available for use seven days a week. Kids can also join up on a special five-day ‘mini tennis camp’ for indoor tennis. With experienced coaches from the sport and a different focus in every session, the camps arean easyintroduction to thismasterfulsport for young ones aged from five to eight years. The mini tennis camps run from Monday to Friday, 10.00 am to 12.00 noon and cost £55 per participating child.
After ahealthysession at the tennis courts, you can visit local attractions in Stratford and the Olympic Park. Highlights include the ‘Tumbling Bay’ playground, picturesque open spaces perfect for picnics and leisurely walks, theLondon Aquatics Centre, theArcelor-MittalOrbit– which resembles a hookah pipe and is Britain’s tallest sculpture – and the Copper Box Arena. Shoppers can visit the nearby brand-newWestfield Stratford CityE20and Stratford Shopping Centre, while culture vultures can travel out a bit to visit the kid-friendlyDiscovery Centreand see performances at the Theatre Royal. StratfordDLR, Tube and bus stations are close by, enabling links to all parts of London and beyond.
If you love horse-riding, have a go at the leisurely pony treks at the Lee Valley Riding Centre in Leyton, a short bus ride away from Stratford. Enjoy the great outdoors and meet like-minded pony enthusiasts while trekking through the meadowsalongsidethe River Lee. The event is open to all families with children, regardless of any riding experience. The friendly and relaxing sessions are also a chance to learn about horse-riding,includinghandling the reins, to learning how to halt, steer and walkalongsideyour noble steed. The sessions cost £25 per person.
If this summer is proving a bit on the hot side for you, why not cool down with some ice-skating at theLee Valley Ice Centre, also in Leyton. There are daily public skating sessions or for the newcomer, the Ice Centre has special classes to learn the basics from skating experts. Ice-skating costs £8.90 per child, which includes the price for hiring a pair of skates.
For families able to travel beyond theM25, the neighbouring counties of Essex and Hertfordshire have some exciting events being staged byLVRPAover the summer. TheLee Valley ParkFarms in Waltham Abbey are offering full days of fun where children can get up close and personal with farmyard animals such as ducklings, sheep and even exotic wildlife like tamarin monkeys and meerkats. After bonding with animals, children can also let off some pent-up excitement at the nearby Hilltop Adventure Zone, where they can have tonnes of fun “aiming for the sky on the giant jumping pillow, whizzing down the slope of the toboggan run in asquidgydonut” before riding a tractor to the site’s operational dairy farm where they can learn where our milk and cheese come from. Parents ofPeppaPig fans have a special treat on the 30th July 2014. Tickets to the farm cost £8 per child, but you can get a 10% discount if you book online.
Waltham Cross’sLee Valley White Water Centreis recommendedfor those who want a soaking wet adrenaline rush. This venue played host to the canoe slalom events at the London Olympics of two years ago and is now the permanent home of the Team GB Canoe Slalom team. Children on the summer break can have a go at basic canoeing on the centre’s manmade lake for only a fiver, in one of their special ‘Go Canoeing’ courses. The braver children can take part in a hot dog session, rafting orhydrospeedingtheonsiterapids, for thatultimatefoamy thrill chase. If they don’t fancy getting wet, that’s no problem. The lessaquatically-inclinedare treatedto seeing paddlers in action and daredevil rafters tearing up the waterways at the Olympic-grade course. The white water events cost from £30 per person and there are age restrictions for some of the more demanding water sports.
If you want to feel a splash without going at full speed, there are calmer water events at the Lee Valley Boat Centre inBroxbourne, a sleepy commuter town deep within Hertfordshire. Only ten minutes’ drive from the valley’s White Water Centre, it is the perfect place to enjoy some gentle boating and a relaxing day out for tired parents and children. There are a choice of rowing boats, motorised vessels andpedalosall available for hire. Both centresare situatedin the 1,000 acre Lee Valley Park, where there are opportunities for chilled-out picnics, nature walks or just some peaceful ‘me time’.
If you wish to find out more,askabout courses or available places, or to make bookings/reservations, the following are addresses and the official Lee Valley tourism website. All information made available in this articlewas providedby publicity from theLee Valley Regional ParkAuthority.
Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre
Eton Manor, Leadmill Lane, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford, London E20 3AD.
Tel: 08456 770 604
Lee Valley VeloPark
Abercrombie Road, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford, London E20 3AB.
Tel: 08456 770 603
Lee Valley Riding Centre
Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, London E10 7QL.
Tel: +44 (0)20 8556 2629
Lee Valley Ice Centre
Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, London E10 7QL.
Tel: +44 (0)20 8533 3154
Lee Valley Park Farms
Stubbins Hall Lane, Waltham Abbey, Essex EN9 2EF.
Tel: +44 (0)1992 892 781
Lee Valley White Water Centre
Station Road, Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, EN9 1AB.
Tel: 08456 770 606
Lee Valley Boat Centre
Old Nazeing Road, Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, EN10 6LX.
It is not commonplace to think of toddlers as being smart, and certainly not as being highly creative. For an average tot, the apex of creativity is a paper or wall plastered with scribbles or a misshapen Lego tower that soon gets demolished as the child decides to go on a running rampage. Give a party of pre-schoolers a pack of felt-tips and you will soon need a new lick of paint for every wall in the house.
Lego: the multicoloured building equipment favoured by tiny construction engineers the world over
Only a few days ago, my 3-year-old niece Shaniya tipped the theory of toddler creativity over onto its head in some kind of infantile mould-shattering handstand. My little superstar single-handedly took one group of objects and completely reinvented their purpose in a simple yet stunning action that completely left me, her uncle, in an open-jawed state of shock for several seconds.
It was a cold, miserable Boxing Day in the east of London,in a terraced house not far from the Beckton Alps. My sister, Shani’s mother, had requested me to come to her house to stay for a few hours babysitting. My niece, like most young girls her age, kicks off playtime by hauling various toys from her room to take to the living room. Her favourites are her baby dolls with matching prams, small toys from the plastic balls you get in gumball machines, pens and paper, large electronic gizmos and an enviable collection of teddy bears and stuffed plush animals. She also takes after Mummy with her keen eye for shoes, jewellery and other ‘trinkets’. She loves to walk around the flat in her shoes, but usually wears odd pairs. A pre-school attempt at shattering fashion trends?…
Feel the wrath of Shaniya’s army of bone-breaking barbarian bears!!
When Shani takes respite from bringing in playthings directly from her bedroom next door, there are always a few stray toys stashed behind the sofa or lying around the floor to help break the monotonous re-runs of Horrid Henry on CITV. If she does not find any toys because they have been put away by Mum and Dad, then she will mess around with a necklace, one of her mother’s earrings or her all-time favourite: elastic hairbands.
As the winter sky stealthily darkened outside and the Uncle & Niece Partnership weathered yet another hour of kiddy telly, I saw Shaniya pull out several round sparkling objects as she sat in the middle of the living room’s rug. It was a motley collection of different coloured hairbands, freshly shop-bought. Shaniya has long curly black hair that is a mission to comb and keep tidy, so her mum buys elastic hair ornaments to quickly scrape her daughter’s barnet into a single or double ponytail when things start to get frizzy on top. She does not yet know how to tie up her own hair, as smart as she is, so resorts to pulling them over around her hands or feet and wearing them as some kind of flexible bangle.
Normally the standard policy here is one or two on the wrist or above the ankle, with official colours usually black or pink. Shaniya then walks around as normally as the pedestrians on the road outside wear their scarves. But this time the little angel decided to ramp things up a bit…
I was only half-aware that while I was playing games on my phone, Shani has been slowly picking up the silver-striped hair accessories one-by-one and threading them on to her right wrist forming what looked like a sparkly scaled-down version of a Eighties legwarmer. For those readers who are familiar with South Asian weddings, the brides often wear gold or coloured plastic bangles in groups of up to 20 or so on each wrist. When I did a second double-take at Shaniya’s creation, I did think that it looked like the huge displays of bangles you can find at Asian jewellery shops.
Apart from the obvious intelligence shown by my niece in comprehending that the hairbands were elastic and of a suitable size enough to fit her chubby little fingers through, I was also taken aback at how she organised the colour layout: blues and pink at the posterior, preceded by equally spaced bands of purple, light green and red. It could be a fluke but it also could be the artistic and functional expression of a mini-genius. Shaniya certainly is adept at her three years and 3 1/2 months. She can hold a conversation, although half of what she says is gobbledygook. She has learned to use both regular phones and smartphones, as well as her father’s iPad (she is crazy for Angry Birds) and has only recently started getting the hang of taking photographs. She tidies up after herself and can sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Jingle Bells” fairly well. Even at such a tender age, what a lot of people assume are snivelling little monsters with a penchant for eardrum-splitter screams can possess substantial intelligence and motor skills far beyond their years. At the age of six, I myself possessed the reading age of a child twice my age.
Three years ago, Britain’s Daily Mail reported on a two-year-old Guildford toddler named Karina whose IQ was measured by a specialised education psychologist at a 160 points, the same as astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. She was tested on various linguistic and cognitive skills and was found to be in the top 2% of intelligence centiles, with a preference for words especially. Her intelligence measurement was high enough to challenge kids twice her age and meant she was eligible to join MENSA – the world collective of superminds.
Next time you see your toddler scrawl odd shapes on your kitchen wall, he/she could well be a Picasso in the making…
I am a big Facebook addict, and while leisurely scrolling down my News Feed, often find posts from my friends or work colleagues that make me stop and think “hello, that looks interesting!”. It could be a beautiful picture or photo, or a well-thought out comment…or something hilarious. I usually subject my Facebook mates to a barrage of silly and humorous comment posts and statuses on a daily basis. Surprisingly they haven’t yet all unfriended me!.
I saw this little beauty about a day ago, originally published by some funny jokes group I’m a member of, ” If I Got Paid or Every Hour I’ve Spent On Facebook, I’d be RICH” or something along those lines. Actually these groups are a little light and harmless cyber-entertainment, if nothing much else. They post some interesting stuff, although they have a freaking annoying habit of also flooding my news feed with stupid bullcrap, often written in very retarded English. But, anyways, back to our comment pic here.
It had me thinking. How today’s generation of children are THE digital generation. They practically grew up and cut their teeth with technology. They cheerfully evade Facebook’s 13-and-above age limit, are far more IT-literate than their parents ever will be, and love accumulating the latest gadgetry. This is partly because, as always, kids are vulnerable to peer pressure. When I was in primary school, what got you the ultimate school cred was having fashionable trainers (sneakers). God forbid if your mother sent you to school in a pair of cheap Gola kicks bought on discount from Shoefayre. It will be ordained under the Sacred Rules of Playground Fashion that you WILL be the laughing stock of Class 6B. Now we see people talking about who has the latest iPod/iPhone/iWhatever. Same cool rules apply though. It is that pressure to be up-to-point that makes kids badger their parents to buy all these very expensive pieces of kit. Maybe parents these days are just too soft and give in too easily to their progeny’s demands. Or especially if they are younger parents, they’re already comfortable enough with technology that they don’t fear it one bit, and are comfortable shopping around with their children.
But seriously, 10-year-olds with laptops, online social networks, and a litany of products by Apple Inc. I’m not that old and am a confident technology user, but I find that concept not only strange but a little unnerving too. I did not have my first laptop until after I left university. I had to rely on the computer rooms at my campus library. My first phone was this dumpy old Motorola which looked like a house phone, given to me by a family friend. I lugged this brick around thinking I was the coolest at my sixth-form college. This while everyone else was packing Nokias. I was 16-17 at the time. My family did not get their first desktop PC until a couple of years after I ditched said clunky digital paperweight. In any case, it would be unthinkable for my own future children to possess a mobile phone until they are at least 15, and that only to keep them safe.
In my childhood days, technology was a lot simpler, and less affordable.We settled for the simpler things in life. I still remember those Pokemon cards with their cool illustrations and their sheer variety. My younger brother was the official collector in my house, and we would often go down to the local newsagents to pick up a shiny packet of 10 or so cards, which he would avidly swap with school friends to get rid of the duplicates or ‘doubles’ as we called them. Getting a shiny (a Pokemon card with a metallic or holographic foil printed with the character’s details and HP points) was the Holy Grail. These shinies were the coup-de-grace in the numerous card game duets that took place in playgrounds up and down the country. By the late 1990s, this was practically our youngsters’ national sport.When was the last time you heard a 14-year-old tell his mate that he will swap his Charmander for the other’s Hitmonlee ?
From Pogs and Pokemon/Yu-Gi-Oh cards, we moved onto yo-yos with flashing LED lights and Tamagotchis (electronic pets that came with a keyring). Kids today with their top-of-the range MP3 players and that, would probably laugh at what passed for entertainment in my generation, just like we used to laugh at the generations before us, with their spinning tops, conkers and Action Man figures.
Society worries about how children now are no longer socialising and playing outside because they are all cooped up in front of the TV/PC/Mac screen and spend more time chatting on BBM or eBuddy than face-to-face. Now they are allegedly becoming more anti-social and more obese and parents worry about their credit card statements at the end of the month. Then there’s the online risks from bullies and paedophiles etc.
We should all try to be comfortable with the technological revolution I think. At least today’s youth can adapt easily, which will make them more competitive and on-point in our increasingly computer-dependent jobs market. Technology and digitalisation are vitally important to how we play, think, learn, communicate, and express ourselves. But that said, let’s hope though that our grandchildren still find whoopee cushions funny.