The upbringing of the average Krio child was not the responsibility of the parents alone. Unlike today when parents take umbrage at their children being corrected by anyone besides them, the disciplining of the Krio child was the responsibility of the school, the community and other relatives, no matter how distant they were. You could be punished for such trivial things as eating, chewing or talking too loudly in public. As a result, the Krio child was always careful to behave in an appropriate manner in public because you never knew who might see you “disgracing” your family. When I started attending Annie Walsh Memorial School at the East End of Freetown, I entered an institution, like most other educational institutions, that worked very closely with the home. The parents of a child whose consistently bad behaviour the school authorities could not continue to handle satisfactorily, would receive a letter inviting one or both of them to discuss the matter with the Principal. By the end of the discussions, both parties would have come to an agreement about the best way to deal with the recalcitrant child.
Usually though, the school was expected to handle matters that had to do with them and the parents had the responsibility of handing ethical matters outside the school. What today would be regarded as “child abuse” was considered harmless upbringing methods of child-rearing. Once, an aunt saw me talking to a group of boys in town whilst waiting for my bus. The crime? They were in their school uniform just as I was, but it was just not done to be standing around talking to boys in one’s school uniform. By the time I arrived home a few hours later, a serious reprimand by my mother was waiting for me.
Krio mothers were particularly responsible for their children’s upbringing. “When a child turns out well,” they would intone, “people give credit to the father. When a child does not turn out well, it’s usually the mother’s fault.” As a result, mothers took the upbringing of their children, especially their daughters, very seriously.
In the matter of house work and executing household chores, both boys and girls were taught to sweep, clean, wash pots and pans and even to cook from a very early age. The reason? If a young man was unfortunate to marry a woman who did not know how to cook, he would still eat well-cooked food that he had prepared himself. He was not expected to go home to his mother to eat just because his wife could not cook well. Krios consider it a big disgrace for a girl, much less a young woman, not to know how to prepare meals or run a home. Whenever this happened, it was always traced back to her mother. One of the hallmarks of a successful mother was that she taught her daughters how to prepare good, nourishing meals for her husband and family when she had her own home.
To be continued.....