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Nigeria’s embattled children

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An Okada rider with children

It is now holiday time. Children are back from school and colleges and homes are bustling with their sheer presence, noise-making and prank.

How wonderful then could it be if children are allowed to be children? This is not a comment on educational standard or on the unflattering, but famous federal character in admission.

It simply concerns the child—a human being beginning experiences on earth and not yet of full value—one who even nature has, as yet, not given any responsibility. His main joy lies in playing.

In fact, all other activities are burdensome to the child.

It is hunger and sleep that forcibly interrupt playing.

They are attended to promptly to permit the child to return once more to playing. Even when the child takes up some serious activity, a game is made out of it.

This natural state of the child should inform the attitude of parents and educators as to the way a child is to be brought up.

The body and the intellect of the child should be trained to prepare the child for a successful life.

But this should not be done to the extent that it becomes the main objective of a child’s life.

This unfortunately is now the case. Look at the timetable of a Nigerian child during school time:

Rising time—5.30 a.m.

Leaves for school—6.30 a.m.

School Period—8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Arrives Home—3 p.m.

Lunch—3.30 p.m.

Lesson—4 to 6 p.m.

TV—6.30 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.

Dinner—7.30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Bed Time—8 p.m. (In disciplined homes.)

When does this child enjoy his childhood? When does he explore the woods?

When does he look into a bird’s nest, go to the river to fish or to swim?

When does he go to the river bank to scoop clay to mould birds and aeroplane?

He bursts into tears that his bird or airplane made of clay cannot fly!

When does he generally know his environment? When does he fetch palm fronds and attempt to construct basket out them, after curiously watching John’s father in the neighbourhood dexterously weave many?

For some children, the scenario is even worse since their school officially organises lessons from immediately after school such that the children only get home dropped by the school bus or fetched by the househelp at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. just in time for dinner, and bed barely an hour later… only to resume the ding dong the following day.

This write up arises from my observation of mothers proudly dropping off their children at school even now that schools are supposed to be on holiday break.

The reason given is that it is right to allow children learn more.

They say matter of factly that children have to keep learning. But I know that there is “over teaching” which gives rise to “under learning.”

The main reason for these holiday schools is convenience!

Not the convenience of the children who would rather stay home to play, to do hide and seek, run after lizards on the compound, children who would rather want to see and get excited at the sight of squirrel in grandma’s garden or visit interesting things in the environment.

It is the convenience of schools and parents.

The schools can make more money and the parents can completely avoid responsibility of giving extra care to their children during the free period at home—responsibility they gladly accepted from Nature when they supplicated to be allowed to have children that they are now blessed with.

Why do parents and educators do this to children? There are many reasons.

One is that some parents earnestly believe they are doing the best for their children.

This is, however, not so. What is mostly achieved is crowding the child’s brain with information which while over cultivating the brain negates the purpose of childhood.

The primary purpose of childhood is to experience the beauty and joy of nature.

Very little time is allowed for this if at all.

We want to make the children prematurely intelligent so that we can be proud of them; we can then show them off, brandishing their report cards.

Of course, one cannot overlook the fact that the educational system of these times rattles parents and educators and they feel they have to push the children.

It is, however, so little realised that the child that attends the greatest number of lessons is not necessarily always the best in class.

More importantly being first in class may turn out not to be such a big deal later in life.

Some adults who were always first in class have been observed not to have managed their adult lives as well as some of those who were never first.

While one is not advocating that children should not be helped with their class work, or encouraged to win laurels, one is saying that a child is a child and this should always be borne in mind, also the nature of the particular child.

It is crucially imperative that educators should bear this fact in mind and satisfy the needs of these situations as much as possible.

Parents and educators can start by, at least, giving thought to the meaning of childhood, to the nature of a particular child.

The way to give the necessary guidance will then emerge.

The 6-3-3-4 system in education may eventually solve the problem of individual need of the child if it is revitalized and purposefully pursued.

Even then this will only be as far as the education system is concerned.

The parents themselves must give home education, bearing the nature of their child in mind.

Thought also has to be given to the way children are relentlessly driven to acquire erudition prematurely especially since, as a matter of fact, the information obtained at such great pains hardly comes handy in the understanding and handling of life, its challenges, struggles and victorious ending.


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