Assessing it Takes a Village to Raise a Child

In 1996 Hilary Clinton made famous the ancient African Proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” The proverb is from Igbo and Yoruba regions of Nigeria and the basic meaning is that raising a child is a communal effort. It is to be taken to mean that the responsibility lies not only with the parents, but also with the extended family and in some cases the community.

Many African cultures share this school of thought, the proverb is echoed in the Sukuma “One knee does not bring up a child”, and in the Swahili proverb “One hand does not nurse a child.” If we look closely at our own culture, we can even loosely compare this to our own scripture in Ecclesiastes 4:9,12 and a mother’s self-sacrificing love Isaiah 49:15-16. But do we believe it?

It is sad to say that in the world that we live in today, letting a whole village, or in our case anyone other than trusted family members and close friends raise our child could be a very dangerous and or deadly mistake. Have we not so soon forgotten about Elizabeth Smart, Shawn Hornbeck, Polly Klaas, and too many more to list? These are children who were abducted either from their own homes or from “safe” places in their communities. It is a sad but simple truth, but you just don’t know your neighbors, and sometimes, you don’t even really know your friends.

In Dallas, Texas 1996 there was an incident that arose and caused some controversy over this saying. The incident involved a group of kids who broke into a local mall. Four security guards who were on duty caught, and whipped the children. The children’s parents said that the guards were wrong in their actions, that they had no right to discipline the children. The guards response to this was that they did have a right because “It is the village that raises the children.” I cannot think of any court of law that would agree with the guards. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law-not by security guards. These were children, minors. They should have been tried as minors. The guards used that book as an excuse to carry out their own type of martial law, and it was wrong. Words are powerful things. People must take caution in their usage, and even more caution in making sure they understand their meanings. The statement “It takes a village to raise a child” does not give a security guard the right to whip my child no matter what side of the law he or she is on.

It is my feeling that it is a parents job to raise their children, and yes, we all need family, but don’t rely so heavily on them. If you do entrust your children into the care of someone else, check them out thoroughly. Get background checks and references. It is a sad state to be in, but necessary.

Healy, Joseph G. (1998) African Proverb of the Month. Retrieved January 17, 2008 from