17 August 2023

It takes a village

Heads of SchoolDonvaleJunior School
It takes a village
It takes a village
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Reupert et al discuss the African proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. Nigerian Igbo culture coined the phrase to convey the message that it takes many people to provide a safe, healthy environment for children, where they are given the security they need to develop and flourish. Many times in my own parenting journey, I have recalled this phrase when leaning into the support of much loved family and friends.

But why is this phrase so important still today?

The challenges of parenting have changed over the last 20 years and even more so in our post-COVID-19 world. While we no longer find ourselves in lockdown, we do find our younger children learning to socialise appropriately and our older children, learning to reintegrate themselves into dynamic social settings. Social media usage has skyrocketed and as many children now find themselves with tablets and computers in bedrooms, we find ourselves in dangerous territory. Many popular social media apps require participants to be 13 years or older – therefore, these apps are inappropriate for our primary-aged children. When all villagers in our children’s community give the same messages and guidelines, this makes life significantly clearer and more predictable for our children. As a school, we sternly discourage the use of social media apps until the children are an appropriate age and have the maturity to deal with the complex issues these apps can raise. Consistent messaging in the village is key for our children; when their parents and their school work together to promote healthy digital habits, we can expect a greater understanding and respect for our messaging.

A new issue Junior School Donvale currently faces is the consumption of energy drinks, such as Prime. These drinks have been banned at our school as they are unhealthy for a child to drink. Some Prime drinks contain more caffeine than is considered appropriate for an adult male. As a school, we seek parent support in reinforcing the message that these drinks are not appropriate for our children. Again, the messaging in our village needs to be consistent; school and home need to work in partnership to support the wellbeing of our children.

It can be tough as a parent to make the decisions that we know will disappoint our youngest villagers – especially when they do not have the maturity to understand or respect our decision. But this is when the power of the village comes to stand. We do not care for our children and make these decisions about social media or energy drinks in isolation. We need to remember the strength of our village relies on our support for each other.

Alysha Byrne
Deputy Head of Junior School Donvale

Reupert, A., Straussner, S. L., et al, ‘It Takes a Village to Raise a Child: Understanding and Expanding the Concept of the “Village.”’, Frontiers, Volume 10, 2022


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