Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Its a French mind set...

The Colmont is a tributary of the Mayenne river which lazily winds through the sleepy villages and picturesque hamlets of the northern Pay de la Loire.
 It is here, close to the village of Brece. that an area for picnics, petanque and play has been made. A place of quiet, children's voices, babbling water and seasonal fishermen. In true French fashion it is simple, well planned and family friendly and affixed to one of the trees is a sign which states that parents are responsible for their children in this location.

Yesterday afternoon, walking in the area I watched as three young boys, between about six and eight years old, played in and around the riverside . Completely unaccompanied, they watched each other, never went too far and finally, holding the youngest ones hand, walked homeward. Attending to road safety and thwacking the passing vegetation, they carefully wound their way back to the village. French children are expected to be aware, act safety and generally be responsible, just as children did years ago in England.
Makes me think me of a conversation I had with a head teacher in 2009 in a township in Malawi (charity educational work). There was a a rough roadway down from the school, one side of which had a substantial drop.The children ranged from 4 ~ 14 years and daily several hundred children ascended  this track. So we asked the Head why there was no fence, no safety rail and his response was simple, " Why would they children go near the drop? They know that its dangerous so they don't go near the edge?"

Yet back in the UK we carefully guard, even cosset our children. Soft playgrounds, prohibitive signage and continuous supervision. Instead, IT, screens, technology, all very essential commodities replace real experience. if children learn to fear the outside world and  distance themselves from reality we encourage dependence and  isolation. Certainly children in the Pay de la Loire seem self reliant and engaged with their environment. And,though its very different, do the children in the suburbs of Marsaille or Paris I suspect. Their self reliance and engagement will be the same. Its a French mind set.