Bring back our children!
Children’s Day got me thinking of just how we have got it wrong with our children. They are completely lost and the result is evident all around us. As a people, we have abandoned our cultural identity and as a nation we have become a laughing stock to the rest of the world. Where did we get it wrong? Recently, I was invited to speak at an event. The topic was “The Role of Animation in Education, Advertising and National Development”. I found the topic quite interesting because I was able to establish the connection between the cultural orientations we give our children and how it affects national development. I explained to the audience how the stories we were told as kids and the kiddies’ programs we watched on television actually taught us positive values and moulded us into well behaved and respectful children.
Our foolish acceptance of western culture, to the detriment of our own cultural values is destroying our society and breeding younger generations of ‘lost’ people. These people are completely disconnected with the cultural identity that makes us who we are, and steeped in the foreign culture that has brought more misery and grief to our communities. It breaks my heart to see young parents trying to raise their kids the ‘Western’ way. They stupidly think this is civilization, and foolishly believe smacking a child is child abuse. The greatest challenge teachers face in our schools nowadays has to do with these stupid parents who come to protest and complain anytime their kids are either smacked or punished. These parents make it impossible for teachers to enforce discipline in schools while the kids, uncontrollable, practically run riot.
Back then, children were brought up with an iron fist. Many of us have very interesting stories to tell about our very strict no nonsense parents. In our communities, every child belonged to every parent and vice versa. That’s why they say ‘an adult would not be in the market and watch a new born’s neck twist’. He would certainly intervene. When a child went out and misbehaved, the parents were called out. And if an elder was nearby, he would surely discipline the child. That’s why another saying goes thus: ‘a child that isn’t trained at home will be trained abroad’. This simply means that if you fail to discipline your child, when he goes out and misbehaves, he will surely be taught a lesson or two! The family name meant everything to parents in those days. You just couldn’t go out and bring shame to the family name. If you went to school and broke the rule, after receiving your due punishment from the school, chances were your parents would add theirs to it, thereby doubling your punishment. But today, when kids break the rule and get punished in school, the parents go there to fight. Because Oyinbo says it is child abuse!
As it is with families, so it is with nations. We have complained tirelessly for decades, how a few bad eggs go abroad to tarnish the image of our country. They bring shame to the family name. But these things begin from childhood. When we abandon those strict cultural values and stupidly embrace even the most pathetic of foreign practices, we are raising a generation of irresponsible people who are surely unfit to take over the leadership of the country. I remember when we were kids. You went out and did something wrong. You were scared to return home because you knew the punishment that awaited you. You would beg and pray that your father wasn’t told! Sadly today, we blindly follow the Oyinbo way of raising children, which dictates that you can’t shout at them. That’s verbal abuse. You can’t beat them. That’s child abuse. We forget our own saying that when you spare the rod, you spoil the child. Today, children are not brought up. They simply grow up.
We fail to realise that Oyinbo cultural identity is detrimental to the development of our society. We fail to heed Fela’s warning, that when you follow others, you must keep your eyes and ears open. So that you will know when you’re being led astray. The same Western culture, which claims to protect the rights of the child, sees nothing wrong when same sex couples decide to raise kids. Some even have the kids ‘scientifically’. So when such kids go to elementary school and others are talking about Mum and Dad, what do they talk about? Dad and Dad? Do they know what psychological effects this may have on these innocent kids? Are these the people whose cultural values we should adopt to the detriment of our society?
I saw sure evidence we have lost it as a society during the recent drug abuse debate. Perhaps, because the debate was ignited by our former colonial masters, everybody raised their voices against everybody else, except those who really mattered. Our culture dictates that when a child misbehaves, you blame the parents. You picked up a bad habit, you were punished! As a teenager, if your father caught you smoking he would slap your brains out! But in the entire drug abuse debate, I didn’t see or hear anyone calling out parents and drawing attention to the way we raise our kids nowadays. Drug abuse is a habit. It is a choice. Sometimes, you yield to peer pressure and cultivate it. As kids, we were constantly warned against keeping bad company.
In fact, when there was a bad child in the neighbourhood, and your parents saw you in his company, you would most certainly receive some strokes of the cane! But today, when discussing drug abuse among the youths, we blame everybody except the parents. We blame the Government. We blame regulatory agencies. We even blame pharmaceutical companies. All, except the parents whose negligence have caused these crises! Back then, you picked up a bad habit you were ‘straightened out’ with several strokes of the cane. Today, you pick up a bad habit, they say you are a victim. Victim of what? I think we need to tell ourselves the bitter truth. Unfortunately, the elders who were supposed never to stand watching while a baby’s neck bends awkwardly, have been as silent as the graveyard. No one has raised the issue about parenting and how we have allowed negative foreign influence dictate the way we raise our children.
We must retrace our steps and restore our strong cultural values. Because without these values we are losing our identity as a people and raising a decadent generation of people. We have lost our children to foreign cultures and must now bring them back!
•Muyiwa Kayode is CEO at USP Brand Management and author, The Seven Dimensions of Branding. Brand Nation is a platform for promoting national development based on the universal principles of branding.
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