Comment: When does a woman’s tender care cease?

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In sad memory of Gina Pipson and her five children, I do dedicate this column this week and ask the big question: What will make a mother’s tender care for her biological children cease to the extent of exterminating them?

The tragic story last week of a mother from Gomoa Nyanyano in the Central Region and her five young children shattered my early days of 2010. I am still recovering from the shocking news item that dominated the press and the airwaves last Thursday.

I have since been asking those kinds of questions that any caring and sympathetic human being would ask. In all of this, where was the husband? Was the family so removed from her that nobody suspected any sinister plan? Had friends deserted her? How about her church members and the neighbours? I have repeatedly said to myself, – “what a waste of life”. And it is indeed, a waste of six precious lives.

I am dedicating this week’s Reality Zone to the tragic mother and her five kids just to interrogate the system and to see if this horrendous act of an emotionally and mentally disturbed mother could not have been averted and the delicate lives of the children not preserved.

As a woman, I know that there are many cases of lonely women out there who go through the agony of raising their young families with no support whatsoever.

As a mother who has deep interest in motherhood and child welfare, I believe that the heartbreaking story of Gina Pipson as chronicled in her diary is not an isolated case. For the sake of their children, many mothers are going through psychological and emotional trauma alone in their homes and are bottling them up inside them.

The family’s tragedy speaks loads about our failed society, our dysfunctional child welfare and protection institutions, and a pathetic diagnosis of the social welfare and medical support systems that exist in our country today.

We continue to live in the past. Those generations way back where families were relied on to perform the duties of carers and providers are long gone. The reality of the matter is that those past societal values are gone forever. We now live in a world full of egoism where people have become selfish and individualistic in their approach to life.

The communal life that our mothers and grandmothers were used to has ceased to make meaning to the generations of today. And that is the more reason why we need to get the relevant state support institutions firmly in place for we cannot run away from the consequences of modern-day stressful lives. The nasty result will be a drain on the National Health Insurance Scheme.

The fact is that, mentally related challenges are becoming part of people’s everyday lives. The pressures of getting soul and body together today has left many emotionally and psychologically broken. That is why people who have been through it before and have come out whole would always tell you that there is only a thin line between sanity and insanity. The least snap can send one to the unfortunate extreme.

There are many today who live with mental problems, but are not able to access any medical help either due to ignorance or fear of stigmatisation by society.

I remember listening to a presentation by a psychologist on a study done on women in some selected marketplaces across the country. According to the study, over 50 per cent of the women they sampled showed traits of mental degeneration.

Some of the women were seen muttering to themselves as they walked round the markets buying foodstuff for their households. Much as to the ordinary person these women were doing mental balancing of their budgets and thinking aloud, to the expert, something is deeply wrong. It is simply not normal.

Many women and children are hurting badly in their homes. The worrying life situation of some single mothers who struggle day and night for the sake of the sanity of their families is enough to send them to mental homes.

And that is why I have been wondering whether nobody around her saw it coming in the case of Georgina Pipson.

Can a normal mother go through five painful pregnancies and one night look into the faces of the children she painfully brought forth and nursed and decide to eliminate them all at a go? At what point in life does a woman’s tender care cease towards the children she has proudly raised to those levels?

Unfortunately, today in our society, pro-poor support programmes are so few and far in between.

Ours is the type of society where single mothers have to fend for themselves and their children, whiles irresponsible fathers are left on the hook going around and unleashing their irresponsibility on many more women.

Unfortunately too, there is nothing such as state support, financially or socially, for the cause of these women.

They toil through mental challenges trying to balance their lives and more important, the lives of their families.

Society tends to take their case for granted and leave them to their fate. It takes cases such as that of the late Ms Pipson and her five children for society to wake-up to the lapses in the system.

Listening to the former husband and father of four of the tragic children on an Accra radio station over the weekend, the mental state of Georgina gave him and Georgina’s siblings cause for concern. He then sent her to the psychiatric hospital.

According to the former husband, at some stages even the Women and Juvenile Unit (WAJU), now Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU), of the Police service and CHRAJ came in after she reported him to the police for manhandling her. But that seems to have been it, nothing more because in the words of the former husband, “Georgina was not mad.

She was quite normal but occasionally at some point, she starts behaving abnormal. She would go out and sit somewhere and cry.” Clearly, even to a lay person, there were signs of depression in this woman and someone should have followed up on her case.

It has taken the regrettable case of this tragic woman for many of us to realise that state institutions need to be made to work. Through this column, I have on at least two occasions raised the case of active and efficient school welfare and school health departments.

Why? Because the education of children should be seen as a holistic affair – from the classroom to the home.

It is said that a sound mind rests in a sound body. We send our children to school to acquire knowledge.

What the system is failing to recognise is that when a child is psychologically and physically abused at home, there is no way that child will do well in the classroom.

Traits of disturbances more often than not can be seen in the behaviour and attitude of such a child. That is a fact we do not need a child psychologist to tell us.

We have simply got to the stage where we can no longer ignore active and functional child welfare and school health departments in all of our district education offices.

These two departments which play a crucial role in a schoolchild’s development should be given the resources to regularly assess children at the basic level with follow-up visits to the home, especially in the case of those who exhibit disruptive and disturbing tendencies at school.

Our immediate target should be the deprived poor communities whose children are already benefiting from the pro-poor interventions for basic schoolchildren. We do not need another heart-breaking incident of the kind we started the New Year with.

May the souls of the tragic mother and her five young kids rest in perfect peace.

Credit: Vicky Wereko/Daily Graphic