It Is All In the Head!

By Yohannes Gebresellasie (Ph.D)
Addis Ababa Feb 7, 2013

One little six years old Ethio-Canadian girl who was born in Toronto, Canada surprised her dad one day. The day was when her father came to the day-care where his daughter used to go. As usual, her father arrived at the day care to pick up his daughter. After giving his daughter a fatherly kiss, the father asked his daughter how her day was and the daughter, full of information about her day–care continued to chat about everything with her father. The father picked–up his daughter, put her in the car, locked the seat belt and was about to drive back home with his daughter. On the way home, the father picked a small chewing-gum from his pocket, opened its cover and started to chew his hewing gum. Suddenly, the little cover paper of the chewing gum slept away from his hand and was dropped on the street while the father was about to drive. At that moment, the daughter shouted at her father and asked him to stop the car right away and to get out of the car and pike-up the little paper he dropped on the street. The father, rather surprised by the mood of his daughter tried to ignore his daughter’s appeal and tried to focus on how her day was, how she spend the day with her friends, with her teachers etc. but, the daughter insisted that her father stop talking about other things and insisted that he must right away go down and pick-up the paper he dropped on the street. The father then had no choice but to get out of his car and pick-up the little paper he dropped on the street. The little girl did not stop the conversation there either. She further asked her father to put the little paper he picked from the street in his pocket. The father to please his daughter did as he was told.

Finally, it was time to drive home and at home the conversation continued and the little girl asked her father “Dad, do you remember the little paper you picked from the street and you put in your pocket”? She asked. The father said “yes” then, the daughter further asked her father. ‘’Do you see that little thing over ther”? the father responded “yes”. Then the little girl added “Dad ! That little thing is called a garbage bag and that little paper belongs there. Please go and put it inside that little garbage bag.” The father again to please his daughter did what he was told to do and kept quite. Then the daughter continued her conversation and said “thank you” to her father. The father kept quit again but the daughter asked her father to say “you are well come”. The father did what he was told again and kept silent. The daughter then told her father that in her day care, her teacher told everyone there not to throw any garbage or anything bad on the street because if one person drops a piece of paper and others continues to drop another paper or anything bad or dangerous, then the streets will be dirty, dangerous and uncomfortable to drive and unhealthy to walk; therefore, they should protect and keep their streets clean. Finally, the father and the daughter agreed and stopped the conversation there.

Here at home, especially in our nation’s capital, Addis Ababa, new roads have been built, old roads have been re-built and improved and many pass-ways have been beautifully covered up with cobble stones. However, the population is growing from time to time and vehicle ownership is equally growing with the growing number of residents and with the growing rate of income especially within the business community. On the other hand, awareness on the environment and residents responsibilities in keeping their backyards clean let alone their streets clean has unfortunately been worsening from time to time. One can easily see plastic and garbage bugs thrown right at the middle of a main highway, on ring-roads, on pass ways and on various streets at every corner of our capital city. Further, one can also see huge and dangerous stones left right at the middle of those streets. These stones are so dangerous and if driven over, they can sprint and cause material damage and can even cause loss of lives. This kind of irresponsible act by carless part of our society in our capital city or anywhere else is simply unacceptable in our era of 21st centaury. There are few segments of our society who may feel that the city does not belong to them, few others do not care about the city and yet others are indifference. Also, the city administration has not been serious enough to put in place a firm regulatory framework to look after these irresponsible citizens Further, the media must do more work to raise public awareness on this important issue because it is an issue that needs serious attention. Some nations such as Canada have very strict laws against those who deliberately spoil or damage streets and the penalties are at times severe.

In light of the importance of keeping our streets clean, the following are some thoughts for consideration:

. There should be a mass public awareness education regarding the issue in question through all media outlets: radio, television, newspapers etc..

. The city administration must have a very firm and unequivocal penalty against those who deliberately spoil or damage streets.

. Religious institution must play a great role in educating the public at large about the importance of the issue in question.

. Educational institutions must put the issue as part of their curriculum and it has to start from the day–care.

. The city has to recruit volunteers from every sector of the society that look after the cleanness of their backyards and who can collaborate with the city administration in that regard.

. Embassies and local and international NGOs can also play role in collaboration with the city administration.

. We can also start (a day or two) once in a while to clean our back yards, our streets, schools, universities and collages etc. in order to increase our awareness of the environment.

Sometimes, grown ups can also learn from kids and children. Just like the little girl from Canada gave a good lesson to her dad, our children can also teach us good things and we must be prepared to learn and that includes keeping our streets clean. After all, they are our own streets. It is all in the head.