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GREAT THOUGHTS ON CHILD LIFE AND
Under this heading are gathered quotations from the works of those who have formed ideals or dealt
with actualities relating to child life and child welfare. It is hoped that many of our readers will assist in the compilation of this page by sending any helpful thoughts which they may have found of service in their own experience or discovered in the course of their general reading.
A MONTHLY JOURNAL DEVOTED TO CHILD WELFARE.
CHILD WELFARE IN CEYLON.
PARADOXICAL as it may seem, all work calculated to promote child welfare in Ceylon is conspicuous by its absence. It may even be said to be totally non-existent were it not for the activities of various different religious bodies who form the bulwark of charitable and philanthropic movements. Apart from an isolated instance or two of individual or collective effort, there are at present no organizations like those existing in Britain, societies for the prevention of cruelty to children, crèches, milk-depôts, homes and orphanages, and other agencies, institutions, and associations for child welfare.
In the island of Ceylon the conduct of philanthropy for the sake of philanthropy rarely exists. All our benefactions, as a rule, exist very much in a manner analogous to the contributions provided for party funds in England--so forcibly condemned recently by Lord Selborne. This fact, coupled with the proneness of the moneyed classes to hobnob with officials and bask in the sunshine of their favours, means that most of our countrymen will participate only in movements under official patronage or inauguration. The local official conscience, generally speaking, seems to be callous as far as child welfare is concerned. In British Guiana the officials of religion and State Government have formed a Baby Saving League, and are doing a great deal of useful and noble work, but the officials of Ceylon, our premier Crown Colony, have not as yet shown any tendency to encourage humanitarian work of this nature. They hearken to the cry of children in foreign lands and get the local people to loosen their purse-strings, but ignore the insistent cry nearer their own ears. Can the officials be deaf or the people blind ? Ears have they, and yet they hear not. Eyes have they, and yet they see not. It would seem as though it were not a case of want of thought, but one of want of heart. The attempt on the part of the writer to focus public attention on the question of wastage of infant life appears to have fallen on stony ground. The women of the indigenous population of Ceylon follow the example of the men. Is it, then, to be wondered at that the cry of our children is unheeded ?
Educational Opportunities. As a result of the compulsory education ordinances passed into law in 1906 and 1907 the education of the children of Ceylon is progressing fairly satisfactorily. The chief organizations concerned in the conduct of education are the different religious bodies : both Christian and non-Christian, and the Government. Institutions where poor children can receive an education are far too few in number, especially in towns.
The Government has until recently been apathetic in educational matters, but has now awakened to a sense of its obligations and is about to start two schools for the benefit of the poor of the City of Colombo. This number, it is to be hoped, will very soon be increased and that municipal councils and local boards will follow suit and establish similar institutions in other parts of the island. The contemplated raising of the school leaving age from 12 to 14 years, when brought into force, will also do much to further education.
Spiritual Well-being and Moral Welfare. The spiritual well-being and moral welfare of child life are amply provided for in the towns, especially amongst the Christian community, but the same cannot be said of the villages. Not only Christians, but even the Buddhists are now making use of Sunday for educational purposes. The fruits of this good work will no doubt be apparent in a few years to come.
The Physical Welfare of Children. The bodily care of children is not adequately catered for in the schools. This is especially the case as regards girls' schools. The Police Department is one of the very few institutions doing good work in this direction in training the police lads who ultimately turn out fine specimens of virile manhood. The Police Boys' Brigade,
1 See “ Infantile Mortality : An Inquiry into its Causation with Suggestions for Preservation of Infant Life.”
composed of sons and close relatives of members of the force, was established in 1912, and has on its strength 236 boys. These boys, according to age, have to spend a certain number of hours at school and engage in drill, &c. The object
The object of the Brigade is to provide healthy exercise and recreation for the sons of police officers and pensioners, and to provide them with instruction such as will stand them in good stead when they join the force later on. From what one has seen of the Brigade, it must be said that the movement instils into the boys a sound and healthy moral tone and an esprit de corps.”
The most important aid to physical development, however, is due to the opening of a playground for children of the poor at Price Park, a great centre of slumdon, by the Colombo Municipal Council, and they are to be congratulated on this venture. Here the street arabs, and other denizens of the neighbourhood, are induced to come, and are given facilities to indulge in games ranging from a sand pile to football. The playground is under the charge of a paid instructor, who supervises all the games. This opportunity is much appreciated not only by the lads, who would otherwise have gravitated to a life of idleness and possibly delinquency, but also by their parents and relatives, who now readily recognize the good this movement is doing for their hapless offspring. It is to be hoped that the poor children of other wards, as well as the boys and girls in other parts of the island, will be given similar opportunities.
Measures for Public Health and Personal Hygiene. The measures available are partly of a legislative character and partly medical. The former operate directly as well as indirectly.
The Opium Ordinance which was passed into law in 1910 has, indirectly, proved a great welfare measure for child life, inasmuch as the consumption of this drug has fallen from 1,000 lb. per month to 500 lb. The primary consideration of the opium eater is himself, and his innate desire is to satisfy his morbid craving at any cost. Consequently the women and children of these opium eaters are invariably inadequately provided even with the barest necessities of life. This neglect results in a very high mortality among children of such families. Another point that has been noted in this connection is the paucity and frailty of the offspring of opium eaters. The money that an opium consumer is able to spare will in a great degree minimize the above ill-effects. Similar advantages have accrued from restrictions imposed on the sale of cocaine, Cannabis indica, and other drugs. The early closing of public houses where alcoholic intoxicants are sold is also to be regarded as a child welfare measure, and will lead to a diminution of cruelty to children. As an instance of direct legislative measures calculated to promote child welfare there should be mentioned the Juvenile Smoking Ordinance; this, unfortunately, is not rigorously enforced for some reasons best known to the authorities concerned. The Excise Ordinance which prohibits the sale of liquor to children under 14 years or their admission into taverns is another direct measure of real service.
Medical work in some unhealthy and out-of-the-way parts of the island is carried on by the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society and the American Missionary Society. The former chiefly conducts midwifery work and treats cases of anchylostomiasis and diseases of children ; while the latter, in addition to treating patients at their hospitals, trains a large number of maternity nurses and a few midwives. Apropos of the question of midwives, the writer, in his pamphlet already alluded to, advocated the registration of and the training of midwives, and consequently an enlargement of the existing maternity hospital.
Through the kindness and untiring efforts of the Hon. Dr. G. J. Rutherford, the Head of the Medical Department, the Government, who runs all hospitals, was induced to vote a sum of Rs. 19,000, or £1,266 135. 4d., for the purpose of enlarging the maternity hospital, a building presented by the late Mr. Charles de Soysa, Ceylon's greatest philanthropist. This will enable twenty-four extra midwives to be trained each year. Considering that the mortality in Ceylon among mothers as a result of childbirth is one to every forty-three confinements (in England the return is said to be i to 259), the utility of this measure will be evident. It will be productive not only in saving the lives of many mothers and infants, but also in the prevention of disease among children, because every mother saved would result in ensuring the best and most proper protector for the child.
The Colombo Municipal Council employs at its own cost seven midwives for the benefit of the poor of the City of Colombo. The Medical Department maintains some at its expense, in the remote parts of the island where medical relief is not easily accessible, and is also gradually adding maternity wards to the general hospitals.
Moral Instruction of Children. The Maggona Reformatory, which is a unique institution, is conducted by the Catholic Church of Rome. The youthful delinquents who are brought before a court of law and often condemned, and other