Author of this post:
CBS Project Manager Melanie
Yesterday late afternoon, a teenager walked into CBS and handed over a toddler to me. He handed him over to me as if he was delivering some food I had ordered or as if he was the postman delivering my mail. As if it were the most natural thing in the world. YES, what I’m telling you is a true story, despite the fact that it just sounds so fictional!!
It took me a moment to realize what was happening and I asked question after question. The young guy was telling me that already four days ago, he had noticed this little boy in the market and was wondering why a toddler of that age was wandering around alone….then yeterday, he witnessed how the same boy was standing on the main road. Especially on market days like yesterday, the road is very busy and it was a very dangerous situation. A car nearly hit the boy, the driver got off and brought the boy to the roadside, telling him to stay there. As soon as the driver entered the car again, the little boy started moving towards the road again. It was then the teenager decided to take action. He started asking around, but nobody knew the boy. Some people were saying that is mother is “mad”. Asking for advice what to do with the boy, he was given the idea to make an announcement on the community radio. Now, the community radio station is located at Tono, which is a little far and without a motorbike (or at least a bicycle), it would not be an easy thing to get there. Besides that, a radio announcement costs money. Hearing from somebody that one of the presenters also teaches at CBS, bringing the boy to CBS looked like the most logical solution to the teenager.
I looked at the little boy. He was wearing a shorts only, which was even wet, as he obviously had peed. He didn’t wear a T-shirt and the hair was dusty and twirled like you normally see it with persons who live on the street and are referred to as “mad”. I could understand why people would say that he for sure is the son to a “mad” woman and would not want to get involved, fearing that money invested in this matter would never be reimbursed. I looked at the teenager, who had wanted to help, but looked so helpless in that moment. I noted down his name, his father’s name and the location of the house and accepted to take care of the boy. The moment the teenager left and my new little friend realized he was left alone with this strange, white woman speaking a language he does not yet understand, he started screaming and tears were flowing down. I literally saw my plan going down the tubes: it was clear that I wouldn’t be able to cycle or walk to the police station with a toddler screaming like that. With the toddler on the lap, I started to close all the documents I had been working on and watching the movements of the curser, he calmed down a bit. Luckily, in that moment I remembered that I had a number of a police investigator saved on my phone. After hearing the story, he promised to come immediately. The boy again started screaming his heart out and I decided to go and sit in front of the building with him as he seemed more comfortable outside – and yes, he immediately stopped crying. And I was happy to see the smiling face of our DBS student Felix!! He tried to talk to the boy in Kasem, but also without any success. The boy did not want any biscuits, he did not take the Banku I had bought to take home for dinner and now offered to him, he did not even want to drink water or malt. So we just waited for the police man to come. And he came running!! He asked me to try to find the teenager who had brought the boy to me, but once I arrived at the house he had indicated and which is very nearby CBS, I was told that there is no boy of that name and no man of the name he had given as his father’s name. By the time I came back to CBS, the police man had informed the police inspector. Considering the boy’s condition, they felt a radio announcement would not make much sense, but that rather the Social Welfare Department should be notified and the boy should be sent to an orphanage in Sirigu or Bolgatanga – for which though it was too late already. I was astonished how fast this decision was taken. Yes, from the look of things the mother might have a mental problem. But does that mean she would not also be looking for her child? The police man informed me that he would notify the Social Welfare Department first thing tomorrow morning, but considering the age of the little boy, he felt it was not a good idea to take him to the police station. I had feared that question already. I saw it coming minutes before the police man voiced it out. In fact, he didn’t even really say it, he rather made me say: “OK fine, I will take him home for the night”. Knowing that Gordon is studying for a final examination, I knew this is not a good idea. Knowing that I don’t understand what the boy is saying, I felt it can’t be the best for the boy. But knowing how the police station looks like, I decided that it still might be the better option. Felix helped me put the boy on the bicycle rack and from how he held his little hands tight to the seat and positioned his little feet, I was sure he was used to be sitting at the back of bicycles and felt a bit relieved. It was in that moment the boy suddenly started talking. Felix translated that he was saying: “I want to go to my mother’s room”. We were both baffled but what else could I have done than trying to get home fast? Already taken off in the direction of a short-cut, looking at how it had already become dark and I would not see where it’s muddy and where the puddles are, I changed my mind and direction. It was the best what could have happened!! We navigated through the busy main roads, still bustling with the market-day-life and I kept on hoping that he would not fall off or start making movements I was not expecting. Suddenly, my little friend pointed to a byway and said something. I assumed he was again referring to his mother’s room, so I stopped abruptly, called the lady selling in a shop there and asked her to please translate what the boy is saying. It must have looked strange! The white woman with a dirty little boy on her bicycle! Many people came to look at the boy, but nobody knew him. The boy kept point at the byway, indicating the name of an area. The shop keeper called her husband. Together with him, I tried to locate the boy’s family’s house. The man though insisted on taking not the byway the boy had pointed at, but taking a parallel one which would make us pass by the mosque. The boy kept on pointing to the way he initially showed, but he calmed down when he realized where we were branching. Once we reached the mosque, we asked some elderly men if they knew the boy. Again, no one knew the boy. So we kept on walking towards the direction of the area the boy had mentioned. At a cross-road, he again pointed in a direction and we followed it. It was a way leading back to the byway he initially had pointed at and just some few seconds later, we came to his family house! I was astonished! This small boy really already has a very good orientation sense! Some few men were sitting in front of the house and confirmed that the boy belonged to a family member. They though didn’t seem as if they had been missing the boy and had been searching for him. The mother was not even around. I called the police man to inform him about the new situation and handed the phone to one of the men to confirm that I had brought the boy home. That is when the mother showed up. Clearly, she most probably is mentally challenged. It really left me – and still leaves me – with a feeling of disturbance to see how unengaged her family members were. They told me that she actually lives in Paga but at times comes to Navrongo to work for three days and then stays with them. That explains why nobody knew the boy, but makes it even more amazing how well the little fellow could navigate his way. After the mother also talked to the police man and confirmed that he is her son, I introduced myself to her and explained how come I had had her son. I’m not sure she understood much, but she understood that I had brought her son home. She told me his name and said: “He is now your husband!!”. Though the family members did not seem to care much, they thanked me too, and sent me off, into the now completely dark evening, saying: “Greet home from us!”.
About the author:
Melanie is a social anthropologist and holds a MA in Development Studies with a focus on Local Development Strategies from the distinguished Institute of Social Studies in The Hague. She is a qualified trainer of youth leaders in Africa-Europe Youth Cooperation and has led youth projects in Switzerland, Ghana and Kenya.
Melanie is a Co-Founder of CBS Business School and the Co-President of Sono