Inequities of life with children and without

Thanks to an aging society and smaller families, Japan has 17.8 million children under the age of 15 and 19 million pet dogs or cats according to an AP wire story last week. The pet boom reflects the human need to bond with some living creature – any living creature. So Japanese pets enjoy a life many humans envy – weekend spa visits, pasta lunches at open-air cafes and designer clothes.
On the American side of the Pacific Ocean is a similar the story. Jaco and his owner Marco R. Della Cava of Los Angeles, Calif. attended a Yoga lesson earlier this year. “Jaco looks as comfortable as a nudist in a swarm of bees, which about describes my state-of-queasiness,” Cava wrote in USA Today. While the instructor solemnly explained the positions, his dog ‘Rover’ found more earthy, dog-oriented issues to attend when he wasn’t required to perform Yoga pet tricks.
Aside from the dubious value of Yoga classes for dogs, the Internet has thousands of stories and examples of well-bred and trained dogs who respond to a few hundred different commands thanks to the regular schooling of their owners.
It is the schooling that is lacking in Guadalajara Mexico where an estimated 2 million Mexican children under 15 must work to help their poverty stricken families. Many have never seen the inside of a school – so street teachers like Tomas Eduardo Trinidad go to the kids. Trinidad is a front line, street teacher who scours the streets finding children who have received no formal education and recruits them for classes held on the street, according to a wire story.
First, Trinidad says he spends several days becoming friends, and then “we talk school.” Through his efforts, dozens of street children are now enrolled in schools, learning to read, write and study subjects they never would have heard of on the streets. He keeps tabs on about 40 children still on the streets, inviting them to an open-air school for kids.
Trinidad is one of about 1,500 street teachers in Mexico and other countries such as Brazil and Peru whose salaries are funded by national governments and 27 private groups who address chronic poverty among street children. The street teachers carry letter and number flash cards, use the sidewalk as a chalkboard or discarded cigarettes to teach about fire and the effects of smoking on the lungs. Preparation to be a street teacher includes classes in understanding poverty, broken families and street life. The street teachers are just as persistent in training and instruction as pet owners – it just takes less time to teach the basics and students go beyond identifying and retrieving objects.
A street teacher’s salaries and life styles however, will never even come close to the $50,000 per month paid for the child support of 4 year-old Kira Kerkorian from her billionaire father, Kirk Kerkorian. One month of Kira’s support would have gone a long ways to help Nigerian children, some as young as Kira, who spent their days slaving in a granite quarry until a major rescue operation interfered. Skinny, filthy, scratched and heavily scarred, the rescued children were exhausted, hungry, abused and dying at the rate of three to four a month. None were older than 15 when arrangements were made to return them to their poverty-stricken parents who had consented to their working in the quarry.
Child labor-trafficking is common across west Africa – but stories about their plight or mass operations to rescue the victims are extremely rare according to last fall’s AP story. Probably because industrialized, western cultures are pre-occupied with pets, and news stories about children forced to work to death in quarries or to live on the streets to help feed their families disturb the peace attained during yoga class with Rover.