Kasserian ingera? ….How are the Children? These words are the traditional greeting in some parts of central and southern Africa. When you meet someone, you don’t say “HI!” or “Hello, how are you?” but you say..”How are the children?” and the expected reply is “the children are well!”
Behind this greeting is a great truth. If the children are doing well then the community is doing well. That is so true, because we know that the ones who suffer the most in times of war between nations, civil war, and even wars within families and between parents are the children! This is as true in the U.S. as it is in Africa or Syria or Iraq, or you name the country. We can measure the health of a country—-a state—–a city—-a family—-by the well-being of their children.
If we were to adopt this greeting—-kasserian ingera? (How are the children) today in the United States could we answer ‘The children are well?” I think not. How we are treating children in our country is a disgrace. The child poverty rate in 2012 was 23 percent. Almost one-fourth of our children, 16.4 million of them, were living at the poverty level in one of the richest countries in the world. We should be ashamed.
There is much research to show the consequences to children living in poverty. Research shows that child poverty results in low academic achievement, school drop outs, health and behavior and emotional problems. So what are we doing at the national level to alleviate the problem of child poverty!
- We are cutting back on food stamps so that more and more children will be going to bed hungry or without adequate nutrition. We are “balancing the budget” at the expense of our children, as they are the prime recipients of food stamps.
- In Kansas, the Republican legislature is fighting Obamacare that might give these children a chance for medicaid and adequate health treatment. The Kansas legislators have refused, in spite of pleas from hospitals and doctors, to extend Medicaid as the new health care law allows so that it would cover 150,000 more people in Kansas, many of them children. They have chosen politics over children’s welfare in Kansas.
- Our Republican legislature has cut the funds for education drastically and are dragging their feet on adequate funding as required by the court decision recently. They have, though, recently attached an amendment to a bill requiring teachers to teach children how to “shake hands.”
- Funding for special programs such as a Boys Ranch in Wichita that has been very successful in turning around delinquent youth and helping them to beome a contributing part of society has been cut.
- Republican resistance to a rise in the minimum wage that would help parents make more to support their children is helping to insure that despite the best efforts of many parents to work two jobs, they will not be able to meet expenses for raising their children.
All of this has been done under the guise of “helping the poor to not be dependent on aid.”
But what can parents do when they both work one or two low-income jobs with no benefits and still cannot pay the rent and utilities and have enough left over for food?
How are the children? Are the children well? I think not. The children are not doing well—-25% of them—-and our country and state and cities are in jeopardy.
I recently saw a cartoon that showed a man sitting on a dock hold a life saving ring on a rope. He was telling a drowning man in the water—-“But if I throw you this life saver you might become dependent on it!” That is the Republican argument about helping the poor, and it stinks!
When is our society going to wake up and elect legislators who will tackle the problems that cause poverty? When will we quit blaming people for being poor or jobless and focus on the way our system is structured that causes this to happen? When will we quit sending jobs overseas to cheap labor and give our own labor force a chance to work? When will we make sure that every child is covered by insurance, as Obamacare seeks to do? When will we adequately fund our school programs so that they may help students succeed by giving remedial help to those who are failing? When will we attack the problem of homelessness and work towards identifying the causes and the remedy for it?
Only after we attack the underlying causes of poverty in our system will we be able to say both in Kansas and in our nation—-“The Children Are Well!” Until that time, our society is in jeopardy!