In the very early hours in the morning somewhere in rural Africa, the children are up getting ready for the day ahead. They milk the cows, clean the cow shades and sweep the compound. The hens are being fed too as the children’s morning tea gets ready in the three-stone fire. The kitchen is too smoky; maybe because the firewood is too cold, but nevertheless, the mud and grass thatched kitchen is tidied up.
Cold water is fetched from the borehole and the morning shower, taken behind the bushes, is done within about five minutes. Breakfast is served, hot water containing local tea leaves with no sugar for the lucky ones. For those not so lucky, they have to go to school on an empty stomach, a trend that is so common in rural and peri-urban settings in Africa. These children cannot afford the luxury of three meals a day - let alone a decent breakfast in the morning.
The evening bell rings, signalling the end of the day. All the children rush to assembly ground then head home. The long distance to their homes is still the same but the differences in the evening trekking come with the presence of friends and neighbours plying the same route. There are stories to narrate about and jokes to laugh at and fruits to eat on the way home.
Normal as it may seem to any human to rest after a long day's work, the children reach home, change into their house clothes and they start performing their chores, fetching firewood, washing cooking utensils used during the day, ensuring the cows have drinking water and bring them back to their shades, preparing dinner and a list of other duties. When they sit down to eat in the late evening, they are exhausted already but who is concerned anyway. The comfort and pleasure of being a child is not felt in this area at all.
Their eyes are teary by the time they settle down for night studies because of the smoke that emanated from the firewood used in cooking. Nobody is sure whether the studies will even take place. The paraffin ended so the tin lamps cannot function, the solar lamps are being used by the elderly in the main house, mostly their grandparents, there is no money to buy candles neither is there electricity – which is still a luxury the government promised ages back but have not yet implemented in this region.
The children may opt to sleep after all. Others burn the midnight oil with whatever source of light they can get. Dozing after every five minutes, they manage to peruse through a few pages of their books. As they lie down in their beds or on the floor, they hope for a better tomorrow. The routine will be the same the next day, the following week, months and years to come. But they are grateful they have life and they are working tirelessly just like children in other parts of the world to secure their future. But this is the typical African child, in a remote area to be precise, and that is what makes the difference.