Africa Speaks: Childhood 2

Contents: . . . Bad Children . . . Our Compound . . . Mischief. . . home page

Boys at Tillabery, Niger, 1992

Bad Children

Maman Ousmane 4/5/92

When we were young, there was a band of trouble-making children in our district. They did what they wanted outside the district. They used to go to the aerodrome [airport] and cut the barbed wire that surrounded it and make small toy cars with the wire.

During the night, these children tied up a thong with thread and strolled through some districts to frighten people. One day they passed behind some women and cried "Snake!" When these women saw that thong, they took fright and ran away, leaving their sandals and loincloths.

Another day, the children were sent to lead the domestic animals to the shepherd. On the way, they met a girl and insulted her by saying she was ugly. The girl spoke back to them. They beat her and fractured her arm. When her parents saw what had happened, they brought the children and their parents together to the chief.

When the judge was told of the event, he ordered his men to close the children in a room called "ants room." It is a room in which there are a lot ants. when a thief was caught they closed him in that room and put in some grains of cereal. These grains made the ants come out from their hole and attack him. That was the thief's punishment before he was carried to the police station.

When these children were closed in that hot room they began crying and begging pardon. When they were seriously frightened, the chief ordered his men to release them, after they promised they would no longer disturb the social order.

One day, my friends and I decided to go near the aerodrome of Zinder to cut grass for our animals. We went early in the morning and filled our sacks with grass. We were on our way back home when two soldiers tried to stop us. They insulted us from afar, and pursued us as far as a village, about three Km from the aerodrome. When we arrived in the village, we hid in a house. Unfortunately, there was a dog in the house, and it began to bark, so the soldiers noticed that we were in that house. With out hesitating, they entered and caught four of us. Some of my friends escaped. They took us away and carried us to the aerodrome where they intended to punish us.

They accused us of destroying the light bulbs that were placed by the side of the landing strip, and beat us with a riding whip. That was painful, and regrettable, because we were not responsible for breaking the bulbs. After this punishment they freed us. We returned home cursing at them.

Copyright © 1998 Maman Ousmane


Boubon, Niger, 1992

Our Compound

Yacouba Souley 5/4/1992

Our house has a large compound. The walls are made of mud. At one side of the house there are two small huts, and on the other side, a door in the wall for the entrance.

The first small hut is the kitchen. The whole of the kitchen is made of holes so that the smoke can get out and mothers do not get hot when cooking. At the entrance is the fire, with three stones set to support the cooking pots. Nearby is the pile of firewood. At one side, there is a big calabash which contains utensils: pans, spoons, bowls, cups. Along the wall of the kitchen, there are water pots, jars, and a large mortar for pounding various foods: millet, yam, sorghum, corn and rice.

The second hut is the loft. It has no windows, and the door is a sort of circle in the wall. The loft stands on eight fixed stones. The stones support it above the reach of water. Our farm production of different years is stored in it: millet, sorghum, rice, corn, and many other things.

At the bottom of the compound there is an enclosure fenced with heavy wood. Our animals are kept in here: goats, sheep and cows. In here also are thee hen houses in which our chickens, cocks and ducks are kept. In the middle of the compound stand two beautiful mango trees. This is the family's favorite place. It provides us with shelter from the heat of the sun. During the hot time of the day women, girls and boys come to rest under the cool shade. The goats, sheep and chickens come here for a rest too, close to the trunks of the trees.

Copyright © 1998 Yacouba Souley


Young kola nut sellers, Filingue market, Niger, 1992


Iyo Ibrahim, 4/27/92

In each village or suburb there are one or more groups of children, and each group has its leader, chosen because he is courageous, strong, or cunning.

Maman, a cousin of mine, was the leader of the boys in my suburb, Manbaoua. He was one of these children who are brought up by their grandparents. Traditionally we say that these boys and girls are very clever because the old people they live with teach them many things. For example they are taught stories and anecdotes they can use in their everyday life.

When you saw Maman for the first time, you wouldn't think he was a group leader. He was the smallest boy of his fellows, but he was skillful at planning their activities.

During the rainy season, Maman and his friends went from farm to farm to steal maize, groundnuts, and other food. Maman never fell into a trap. I still remember the day he and his companions decided to steal some maize from my uncle Illiassou's farm. Maman told his group to wait until sunset to act because at this time, people usually go to the mosque for Magrib (sunset prayer).

Unfortunately, Illiassou had not left when the boys got to his farm. My uncle caught one of them and beat him seriously. Seeing that Illiassou was going to run after them, Maman started praying just outside the farm; so when the farmer saw him kneeling in prayer, he did not think that he was with the other marauders.

Now that Maman is a grown-up, he always complains about children. He says that they have no initiative to do the things he and his age group used to do. Maman is married and is the father of four children. He likes his children very much and his most enjoyable time is to tell them stories of various kinds and to recount his adventures.

Copyright © 1998 Iyo Ibrahim


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