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The Power of Community

9th March 2023

‘It takes a whole village to raise a child’ (African Proverb).


HOM: Questioning and Problem Solving/Thinking Responsibly/Taking Responsible Risks

‘It takes a whole village to raise a child’. This Igbo and Yoruba (Nigeria) proverb exists in different forms in many African languages. The basic meaning is that the upbringing of children is a communal effort. The responsibility for raising a child is shared with the larger family (sometimes called the extended family). Everyone in the family participates, especially the older children, as well as aunts and uncles, grandparents, and even cousins. It is not unusual for African children to stay for long periods with their grandparents or aunts or uncles. Even the wider community gets involved such as neighbours and friends. Children are considered a blessing from God for the whole community. This communal responsibility in raising children is also seen in the Sukuma (Tanzania) proverb ‘one knee does not bring up a child’ and in the Swahili (East and Central Africa) proverb ‘one hand does not nurse a child’.

In general, this Nigerian proverb conveys the African world view that emphasizes the values of family relationships, parental care, self-sacrificing concern for others, sharing, and even hospitality. This is very close to the Biblical worldview as seen in biblical texts related to unity and cooperation (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) and a mother’s self-sacrificing love (Isaiah 49:15-16).

However, for many today, parenting is felt as being more isolated, with parents often disconnected from their wider families, possibly living at a distance due to work commitments and with little time to engage with their local community. And so, more than ever, families need to find a ‘village’.

We know how critical parental figures are to the healthy development of a child. And such figures need not always be blood relatives but simply interested adults who look out for them. Meaningful connection is central to the wellbeing of  children and when a community of healthy adults supports a child, they build a robust social and emotional support system around that child. The child grows up with and becomes accustomed to healthy connections. Empathy and resilience are natural by products, and these two protective factors can decrease many other risk factors that could potentially come into play in the child’s life.

And of course schools make up a considerable part of the village. It is a place where we aim to help pupils build confidence in themselves, as people also depend on them. Healthy relationships with adults build trust in others and so through what we teach and the way we teach, school aims to be a part of that supportive village.

We also encourage pupils to be aware and respond to the ‘global village’ of which we are a part, and this week Ms. Sherlock will be leading the Wychwood response to those who are suffering from the devastation left by the earthquake in Turkey and Syria.


Christine Crossley