28 July 2015 // Articles & Stories

A day in the life of an Ik child

The unreached Ik people live in northeast Uganda, perched on the edge of the great Rift Valley. Terrill Schrock gives us this insight into a typical day for an Ik child.

“It is a life of hunger, danger, and back-breaking labour…”

At the crowing of a rooster, an Ik child awakens from slumber, her mod’od or ‘cocoon’. She emerges from her grass-thatched hut to huddle by the fire under a veil of morning mist. If the family granaries are not yet empty, she may be lucky enough to have a mug of porridge before heading down into the valley for the day’s first heavy jerrycan of water. After that, her baby brother will be strapped to her back for much of the day, as her dad takes off to check his traps and her mum goes for weeding in the garden. She may have to scrounge around for her own food the rest of the day. If her mum comes home drunk, she may not even get dinner. She has to learn to care for herself.

Her two older brothers, with their little posse of friends, will roam the land like a gang in search of food and fun. They will hunt for birds and rats and the latest tree to go to fruit. If the local school is in session, they may go for the cheap porridge or they may ‘dodge.’ For the most part, the boys are left to their own devices, but sometimes they are allowed to participate in the world of men: hunting, farming, making an aw or ‘homestead’.

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To grow up as a child of the Ik is to learn how to survive creatively on one’s own in a community of other self-interested survivors, and in a world reluctant to give up its life-giving treasures.

To grow up as a child of the Ik is to learn how to survive creatively on one’s own in a community of other self-interested survivors, and in a world reluctant to give up its life-giving treasures. It is a life of hunger, danger, and back-breaking labour; drama and intrigue; fear and superstition; sickness, suffering, and death…but also of good humour, close community, and the simple goodness of life lived outside under the sky.

In a world such as theirs, Ik children can only aspire to survive on a daily basis, fill the stomach, marry and reproduce, and live long enough to see one’s grandchildren. They enjoy the intricate web of relationships between family members, friends, neighbours, relatives, and even ‘enemies’ but sadly often have to negotiate these with the well-honed tools of exploitation and trickery. For an Ik child, to live is to survive at any cost and enjoy the process. Life beyond mere survival is only just coming over the horizon.