Should children be politicized?
Let children be children when it comes to politics, says Sipho.
It was during the recent political uprising in Egypt that I noticed a number of parents taking their children to the now famous Tahrir Squire, in Cairo, to take part in mass demonstrations.

Some young children could be seen chanting ‘Down with Mubarak,’ along with their parents. I also noticed a number of mothers attending the demonstrations with toddlers in push chairs.  I could not help wondering what these parents were thinking, putting their children’s lives at risk. How would they protect their children if violence suddenly erupted in the politically charged crowd?

I was left wondering: should children be politicized?

Early political experiences

These scenes reminded me of my own childhood, when I was politicized, at age 12. Where I grew up, I remember ‘youths’ (in their 20s)  of a certain political party waiting for us at the church gate after our Sunday meeting. We were literally forced to attend youth political meetings of that party and our parents could do nothing about it.

From singing church hymns a few moments earlier we were made to sing political songs, some with pretty hurtful lyrics. The same ‘youths’ would move from house to house collecting  young people to attend compulsory political meetings. I remember one family member hiding under the bed so as not to attend – now I wish I’d been that innovative.

What used to happen at these meetings? Singing, marching, chanting of party slogans and of course being drilled with political ideologies. I can still remember some songs we were made to sing, with lyrics like: ‘Lift up your leg; it does not belong to you. It belongs to The Party.’

Thankfully, soon after, my parents whisked us all off to boarding school where we were free of any political influence.
Give children a choice

The problem with preaching political ideologies to children is that young ones can not discriminate between propaganda, opinions and fact. They tend to take everything they hear from adults as facts especially if these ideologies come from someone whom the child trusts. At some political gatherings it’s very easy to plant prejudices in young people’s minds. These prejudices which can affect a child’s outlook on life and his fellow man.

During these youth political meetings when the ‘Down with X’ slogan was chanted, my young mind assumed that X was an extremely bad person only to realise when I got older that we were being brainwashed.

My view is that children should not be politicized. Let them grow up and develop their own views - only then can choose whether they want to be lied to or not.

My childhood experience turned me into a politically apathetic adult. No child in my care will ever chant any party’s slogan, and no human is ever going to get my support or vote - only God will.

Should children be exposed to political gatherings?

Read more by Sipho Yanano

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