Words cannot describe my excitement at this opportunity to engage my favourite people in the world…Tweens!!!
So for the ‘uninitiated’, Tweens are people who are from age 9 through teens; that’s my definition and I am sticking to it.
I have noticed how, sadly, our media landscape has limited spaces for our Tweens to hear and be heard. Tweens have minds and opinions of their own and need a place where they can just be. Especially in these COVID-19 times where Tweens are stuck home either watching TV, learning off a gadget or stuffing their faces with foods they enjoy, they need an outlet. So, when B&FT gave me the opportunity to be that ‘outlet’, I didn’t even think twice about it; and here we are.
My career over the last 20 years has seen me engaging Tweens mostly; they have so much to offer. I daresay these 5 pointers I picked over the years have kept me in their space this long:
- They are not ‘children’ – they have opinions and want to be heard and not sidelined with comments like, “oh you are only a child”, “you will understand when you grow”, etc
- They want to be included in decision-making at home, especially regarding what they eat and wear, rather than having our choices rammed down their throats
- They want to be given a reason for all the things we ask them to do or not to; “… because I said so” isn’t a good enough reason, they insist
- They want us (parents, adults) to respect their spaces and privacy (within reasonable limits)
- They want us to trust them (again, within reasonable limits)
Our Tweens are in a very competitive world, aka the 21st century and are distracted by a plethora of media (social media not being the least) and an avalanche of (mis)information; wading through these whilst being a student can be weighty for them. They have access to information and gadgets that some of us only had when we started our first jobs! But one thing is for sure; they need guidance on how to use both information and resources to their advantage.
I met a 12-year-old in 2014 at my alma mater when I went back there to talk on life’s choices (I wouldn’t call it ‘career talk’ at this stage). She walked to me with five other girlfriends of hers after my talk; they looked satisfied with themselves, I thought. What could they have to say to me?
“Ms. Eugenia, thanks for your talk. I really enjoyed it,” she said smiling widely. I have scored with these Tweens, I smiled to myself.
“But I have a problem,” she interjected halfway through the group hug we all embraced in. “I want to be a fashion designer when I grow up and want to choose Arts subjects, but my parents wouldn’t let me.”
“Did they tell you why?” I asked, half-hoping they did.
“They said I should become a doctor instead as that pays more and is also more dignified”; she sounded miffed. I looked at her friends for some clue, something to work with; I got nothing.
How was I going to walk this tight rope to the end without making her parents seem unreasonable whilst also showing her to follow her passion; I was near petrified. I could picture it; her parents on the couch giving her the glare whilst she squares her shoulders defiantly, and muttering; “But Ms. Eugenia said ……”
“Your parents mean well,” I managed to say quickly. “Are you showing strong results in your Science subjects?”
“Yes, she replied. I actually enjoy them and always get top marks in class; I know I will excel in my BECEs.”
“This is awesome, then; so why don’t you want to become a doctor?” I quizzed
“Like you said in your speech to us, you have to follow your passion and mine is fashion.” Her heart was set on this fashion business and I wasn’t about to break her heart.
“Guess what?!” I said as I had a lightbulb moment. “How about you go ahead with the Sciences all the way through till you become the Doctor your parents want? They pay for your education so you must go along with their plans. But you can take fashion courses at any of these Fashion Colleges around us, whilst pursuing your Sciences.
You will become the Doctor who also has a fashion degree or the Fashion Designer with a Medical degree; either way, you would have two skills you can work with, one of them being your passion!”
”I never thought about it that way, Ms. Eugenia; thank you!!”, as she flung her slender arms around me and gave me the tightest hug ever, whilst her friends looked on. She wanted to be heard. And that’s not a lot to ask for, is it?
The writer is a passionate educator who makes learning fun for children under 18 through co-curricular programmes. Through her charity organisation, Young Educators Foundation (YEF) in Ghana, the programme’s portfolios have expanded to include literacy programmes in local languages as well as public speaking programmes for the youth.
Based on her work in education and with children, Eugenia is the recipient of many nomination and awards such as a presidential award for the contribution to education over the past decade in 2018. In 2019, she was named as one of the 74 individuals in Those who Inspire Ghana, a global programme that identifies nationals whose experiences are worth sharing.
Eugenia believes that children are not the ‘future’, but rather the ‘present’ and so the need to invest in their total development. She is a regular contributor on radio and television shows as well as various public fora on this and related topics.