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Childhood in Africa: An Interdisciplinary Journal

Childhood in Africa: An Interdisciplinary Journal (CAJ) is the only open access, peer reviewed journal specifically focused on issues and topics related to children in Africa. CAJ is designed to foster a free exchange of ideas between African scholars and scholars around the world, with the opportunity to publish in an easy to use online format.

Why publish with CAJ?

Worldwide Exposure

  • CAJ is international in scope and appeal, which is why it is published online, providing the largest audience possible.
  • CAJ is free, which means your work will reach a wider audience.
  • CAJ publishes rapidly, which means your work will be disseminated quickly.
  • CAJ sends out regular updates through The Institute for the African Child at Ohio University   listserv, reaching academics, health care providers, NGOs, government officials, CBOs, and African media outlets.
  • CAJ has a   Creative Commons License, which means that anyone can reprint and distribute CAJ content, as long as they credit the author and cite the original source.

Academically Rigorous

CAJ's editorial board is composed of active, engaged researchers from multiple disciplines, committed to a rigorous peer review process. 

Ethically Minded

CAJ is entirely paperless in our submission, review and publishing process, reducing the impact of our journal on the environment.   Each issue and individual article can be viewed in a fully designed pdf format.


Journal Archive



Volume 4 | Issue 1 | Spring 2017

ISSN 1948-6502       (online)




Volume 3, Issue 1 • Fall 2013

ISSN 1948-6502   (online)


On behalf of the Institute for the African Child I would like to extend a sincere apology for the remarkable delay in getting this third issue of  Childhood in Africa  on-line. I am particularly anguished about the contributors to the journal who have waited most patiently for us to edit and upload your articles. I have, of course, many fine excuses as to why this issue has taken so long, but then I consider what is available to scholars of African children for publication outlets, and I see some correlation. ( full-text PDF )

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Volume 2, Issue 1 • December 2010

Childhood in Africa : An Interdisciplinary Journal is the journal of the Institute for the African  Child at Ohio University. It follows the mission statement and goals of the Institute for the African Child by ncouraging holistic approaches to the understanding of issues regarding children and childhood in Africa. Seeking to reflect African and Africanist perspectives, it includes all academic disciplines and professional interests in the dissemination of knowledge about children and childhood in Africa. Please feel free to print and share the articles. If you reproduce them, please credit the source.

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Volume 1, Issue 1 • Fall 2009

ISSN 1948-6502   (online)

As an open-access, interdisciplinary journal focusing on children and childhood in Africa, CAJ provides a resource for academics, health care providers, NGOs, government officials, CBOs, and African media outlets  as well as  a forum for them to publish their work. CAJ emphasizes both original research and the application of research to practice. In addition to full feature articles, the "From the Field" section provides short viniettes, briefly discussing wider implications for applied methodologies. Please feel free to print and share the articles. If you reproduce them, please credit the source.

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Featured Articles



The Children Who Became The Black-Coated Workers of Bathurst: A Study of An African Colonial City, Bathurst, c1929-1941

Assan Sarr
Ohio University

Between 1929 and 1941, life in the West African colonial city of Bathurst, Gambia, was difficult. Parents and guidance faced ubiquitous challenges in providing for their families. Due to the depressed economic circumstances of their time, exemplified by the fluctuation in educational spending in the mission and government run schools and the larger colonial economy, parents began pulling their children out of the schools so the latter can look for low-paying jobs to assist their families. One consequences of this was that between 1930 and 1941 it was relatively difficult to find students with certificates higher than Standard VII certificates. This paper draws from colonial reports to analyze childhood and education in the Gambian colony between the 1930s and 1940s.

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Youth and Currency Counterfeiting at Crossroad with Special Reference to Mutengene ( Cham ), South-West Cameroon

Flavius M. Mokake
Ohio University

This essay examines the involvement of youth in counterfeiting and uttering of the Franc CFA in Cameroon, and the response of state authorities. In particular, it establishes a connection between ‘shrinking possibilities’ and youth criminality. In this regard, it contextualises the preponderant involvement of the youth in the circulation of forged money in Mutengene, a junction town in the South West Region (SWR) of Cameroon. It shows that lapses in security strategies and nuances in the country’s penal legal arsenals are possible explanations for the persistence of currency counterfeiting which greatly hampers the town’s economy and social relations. The association of fake money with Mutengene has scarred the town’s image. It must be disclaimed, however, that not all Mutengene youth are involved in counterfeiting, and Mutengene is not the only town in which counterfeits or counterfeiting pass as an ‘illegal-legal tender’ or has become a form of accumulation. Finally, I argue that this symbolises cracks on the walls of effective political and economic governance and epitomises a response to the denial of the basic rights to access decent jobs or have better life that, even with the reintroduction of popular democracy, has not been able to successfully reverse the situation in the country.

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Keywords:  Counterfeit, Currency, Economy, Mutengene, Uttering, Youth

B.A. History and Political Science (University of Buea); M.A. History (University of Buea); M.A. International Affairs – concentration African Studies (Ohio University, USA); Currently  a PhD student in an Interdisciplinary Program (Ohio University)



Caring and caning – Luo children’s perceptions of respect and reciprocity

Jens Aagaard-Hansen
Steno Health Promotion Center  
Steno Diabetes Center, Niels Steensensvej 2-4, 2820 Gentofte, Denmark

The article explores Luo children’s perceptions of the people they like and respect and the ones that they dislike and disrespect. It is shown how the relationships can be characterized by Sahlins’ analytical concepts of generalized and negative reciprocity. The persons that the children like are predominantly parents or age mates and the reasons given emphasize the tangible and intangible gifts and services rendered. The disliked persons are mostly non-kin children and adults. Stealing and beating as well as other perceived injustices are mentioned as main causes. However, caning is perceived not only as a negative action conducted by the disliked persons, but also as an accepted disciplinary sanction. The findings show the basic elements of the moral economy of reciprocity among the Luo children as it is often sanctioned by references to Christian values. 

Full-text PDF

Keywords:  children, exchange, Kenya, Luo, reciprocity, respect.

Author biography : The author has a double education as anthropologist and medical doctor. He has been engaged in anthropological research on childhood and medical anthropology in eastern Africa during the past 17 years, as well as institutional capacity building and training of a large number of African and European anthropologists.
E-mail: jxah@steno.dk




Health and Disease Symptomology in Luo Children

Amy M. Zidron
West Virginia University Children’s Hospital

Gillian Ice, PhD, MPH
Associate Professor, Department of Social Medicine, and African Studies, Ohio University
Director, Global Health for the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and College of Health Sciences and Professions, Ohio University
Adjunct Professor, Anthropology Department, Ohio State University

Elizabeth Juma, MD
Senior Research Officer and Public Health Specialist, Kenya Medical Research Institute

Objectives:  This paper examines the impact of orphanhood on the health of Kenyan Luo children through the use of a clinical history and physical exam. Orphans were hypothesized to have poorer health than non-orphans; differences were expected in both males and females.
Methods:  Four hundred eleven Luo children (9±1 yr), residing in western Kenya were recruited to participate in a cross-sectional study examining health via a structured clinical history and physical exam.  
Results:  Using a t-test as the method of analysis, no significant differences in the clinical history and physical exam were found between the two groups of male children or the two groups of female children.  
Discussion:  Results from this study suggest that Luo children would benefit from health education as well as prevention and treatment for parasitic and fungal infections.

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Surveying Epistemology: Discursive Impacts on the African Understanding of Childhood Stories

Francis Semwaza
Ohio University

In this paper, I argue that the evolutionary processes that Africa has been going through translate into the worsening childhood conditions the continent is presently experiencing. By surveying literature on children before, during and after colonization of the continent, it becomes a necessity to further conclude that of the remnants of colonial discourses, ‘othering’ ourselves remains pervasive to the extent that we disown our children from the way we talk to the way we act. In its totality, this leads to incompetent and malfunctioning plans and policies designed to address the worsening children’s conditions in contemporary Africa.   

Full-text PDF



Mothers in Distress: Cases from the Maternal-Child Mental Health Consultation Service, Liberia, West Africa

Authors and Affiliations

Amy S. Aloysi, M.D., M.P.H.
Assistant Clinical Professor
Departments of Psychiatry and Neurology
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
One Gustave L. Levy Place
New York, NY 10029

Diana Samuel, M.D.
PGY-IV Psychiatry Resident
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Jan Schuetz-Mueller, M.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychiatry 
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Rodney D. Presley, M.S.W.
Program Director & Development Manager
John F. Kennedy Medical Center/Grant Mental Health Hospital
Monrovia, Liberia

Janice Cooper, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Emory University
Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Liberia
Country Representative for Health & MH Project Lead
The Carter Center

Craig L. Katz, M.D.
Associate Clinical Professor
Departments of Psychiatry and Medical Education 
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
The authors wish to acknowledge the work of the MH Clinicians, Comfort Badio, RN, MHC and Yeplen Miapeh, RN, MHC


Maternal health and well-being have a direct impact on the welfare of the child, as caregiver distress contributes to morbidity in the child. Liberia’s under-five mortality rate is improving dramatically but remains high: as of 2010, 1 in 10 children still die before the age of five. Psychosocial factors contribute to a child’s increased risk for malnutrition, neglect, and infectious diseases.  Among these risk factors is maternal mental health.  

We present three cases from our work on the recently established maternal-child mental health consultation service at JFK Hospital in Monrovia Liberia. The consultation service, which began operations in April 2011, is operated by trained mental health clinicians (MHC’s) supervised onsite and remotely via teleconferences with members of our team. The mental health clinicians routinely round on the Pediatrics and Maternity wards at JFK Hospital, the main medical center in Monrovia. By virtue of their integrated presence in the hospital, the stigma of mental health care is reduced and those at risk have access to needed services that they might not otherwise receive or engage in.  

These cases illustrate how addressing psychosocial stressors and the mental health of mothers can improve the welfare of both the mother and the child.  Common psychosocial factors include food insecurity, financial pressures, gender inequality, lack of access to contraception and unwanted fertility, intimate partner violence, childhood sexual abuse, psychological trauma, including stillbirths and infant deaths. The population still struggles with effects of the years of devastating civil war, which ended in 2003. The mental health clinicians staffing the maternal child consultation service provide counseling, emotional support and empowerment for women, often adolescents themselves, who are coping with the serious illness of their child or complications of a pregnancy. We illustrate how a mental health screening evaluation and referral for co-localized ongoing care made during an acute hospital stay has the potential to simultaneously address MDGs 4 and 5: reducing under-5 mortality and improving maternal health.

Full-text PDF





Child Fosterage and the Developmental Markers of Ovambo Children in Namibia: 
A Look at Gender and Kinship

Jill Brown, Creighton University


The purpose of this study is to better understand the practice of child fosterage both in and out of crisis among Owambo speaking people in Namibia, Southern Africa. The study utilized the existing 2000 Namibian Demographic and Health Survey (N=5949) (Macro 2000).  Results indicate that when controlling for age of the child, fostered children experience less education and probability of attending school than biological children. Degree of relatedness to the head of household further differentiates the disparities. Gender differences emerged to disadvantage less closely related boys. No differences were found between orphans and non-orphans in education or health. Fosterage seems to be a protective factor for orphans closely related to their caretakers. Understanding how gender and kinship, and the broader context of fosterage shape family life for both orphans and non orphans may help the development community identify interventions for the most vulnerable of children in Africa.

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Children's Vulnerablility to HIV/AIDS,Poverty and Malnutrition in Buhaya:
Advancement Through Women's Empowerment

Valerie Githinji, Wageningen Universiteit, The Netherlands


Children form a vulnerable segment in society in general, given their dependence on adults for their immediate needs. HIV/AIDS has resulted in increasing children’s vulnerability to HIV/AIDS, poverty and hunger. This epidemic has also resulted in many children being orphaned and raised by grandparents and members of their extended family. This paper focuses on children’s particular vulnerability to the vicious cycle of poverty, hunger and HIV/AIDS in Buhaya in northwestern Tanzania, a region that has been impacted by HIV/AIDS for nearly three decades. The region has also experienced a decline in access to land and agricultural productivity, which has escalated household poverty. I highlight the plight of children living with single mothers who are often viewed as ‘illegitimate’ and not recognized by patriarchal Bahaya clans. This results in deprivation of their rights to land inheritance, as well as to basic needs such as food security, health and education. Given that children’s and women’s health, nutrition, and poverty generally work in synergy, I argue that empowering women and upholding their human rights is crucial to advancing the lives and future of children.

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Circumventing or Superimposing Poverty on the African Child?
The Almajiri Syndrome in Northern Nigeria

Moses T. Aluaigba, Bayero Universiy, Kano


This paper discusses the nature and problems associated with street begging by children as it exists today in virtually all states of Northern Nigeria. It contends that this practice in the area is antithetical to human capital development because of its proclivity to deprivation and abuse of children; inducing poverty and further exacerbating underdevelopment of the North. It suggests a sincere commitment by the northern state governments to funding education; a synergy between Qur’anic schools and Universal Basic Education; endorsement and domestication of the 2003 Child’s Rights Act by states of the north and the banning of itinerant scholars, migration of children and begging in the north as ways of eradicating begging among children in the region.

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Mothers' and Fathers' Perceptions of Paternal Involvement in Child Care in Uganda
Apollo Nkwake, Uganda Christian University 


Two hundred and twenty two working fathers with working wives and two hundred and fourty six working mothers with working husbands were randomly sampled and interviewed to ascertain the circumstances under which  fathers in Uganda  are getting involved in child care tasks (which traditionally in Uganda are a women’s domain) as a result of increasing maternal involvement in paid employment. Seven in every ten fathers and nine in every ten mothers expressed the view that fathers who baby sit are ‘well brought up’. Seven in every ten fathers expressed the opinion that ‘Baby sitting should not be left for mothers’ Most mothers and most fathers thought that fathers should be more involved in activities like helping children with home work, school, holding and playing with children and attending to their health. Five in every ten mothers expressed that they didn’t think their husbands find it unfair for wives to do most of the child care work. Most fathers understood that their presence and involvement is crucial for their children’s development. Fathers and mothers believed that fathers’ involvement in child care is necessary regardless of their financial contribution to the household and their work schedule.

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From the Field


Cascading Positive Change in Teachers:
Active Teaching and Learning in Schools, in Zambia

Jessi Hanson-Javier and Mirellise Vazquez, Childfund International

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Empowering those Responsible: 
Kinship Imperatives in Maternal and Infant Health in Northern Ghana

Jessica Lum and Aaron R. Denham, Northern Arizona University

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Liberating Children in Liberia: 
BioCognetic Peace Education for a New Generation

Marvin Garbeh Davis and Dr. Terrence Webster-Doyle

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