Children’s place in society
I do not believe in the aristocracy of birth, but I believe in the aristocracy of moral ethics. This is the philosophy that inspires my writing of this piece. Aristocracy of birth has its selfish limitations. That of morality is altruistic – putting others into considerations.
Comparatively, growing-up children are like young plants on the nursery-beds. A nursery-bed is a place designed for tendering plants, so as to take shape for maturity. What form that a plant is adapted to, normal or abnormal, depends hugely upon the system that is adopted by the gardener or farmer; the tender. Ten to one, this statement may sound tendentious. However, the reality is not far from that.
Every society develops from the nucleus unit. So, a child is influenced by the family background – the father and mother contribute in no small measure to the off-spring’s well-being. Each home is the “nursery bed”. Consciously or unconsciously, children are made to imbibe good or bad habits which ultimately become family and societal culture. The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, recently branded that Nigeria was “fantastically corrupt”. Most of us felt offended, as evidence of patriotism. Are we not really corrupt? This trait comes from the upward trajectory of family unit, snowballing into the society at large. Some parents take delight in inculcating bad habits in their children. “Charity begins at home”; corruption also begins at home and it must be extirpated at source.
In the 1960s, I was sharing a compound with a couple; the wife used to encourage her daughter to forcefully demand money-gifts from every visitor, albeit without the knowledge and approval of the husband. Defying all codes of honour and decency, the mother would command the daughter in question to run in hot pursuit of the visitor for tips, regardless of his financial position. “Run after uncle to collect money from him”, the mother would say. That was the era when our economy tolerated the use of coins. Despicable as it was, the daughter grew mentally conditioned to the habit unchecked. Also, I noticed that some parents, mothers in particular, used to urge their wards to demand for recompenses after performing some services, like running errands for neighbours. This is a prologue to corrupt practices.
Teaching profession was my first port of call. I had the privilege of playing the role of a watch-dog over children. This privilege springs from the fact that in the primordial days, schools were established by missionaries, and not by any governments; it was later that schools fell into government orbit, to be branded “Government school, college” or “Grant-aided schools”. This was made manifest by the particular mission’s influence on the schools. So, at tender age, children are exposed to religious faiths. The encouragement of children into immorality as aforementioned can result to juvenile delinquency.
Be that as it may, children’s exposure to religious faith-Christianity or Islam helped to ameliorate the severity of juvenile delinquency. Poor and dysfunctional homes are usually the breeding grounds. It gets that way through the negligence of parents. In the news-room of the Daily Times, one day, an experienced mother opened a discussion on how some parents are the arrow-heads of unhealthy practices by addressing guests as “Uncles-Uncles”. She pointed out that it was the genesis of unholy relationship with evil-minded visitors. I added my voice that parents should not permit children to stay around with guests, because immoral discussions could inadvertently creep in to influence children’s minds. Both suggestions were applauded, without demur. The next breeding ground, “nursery beds” of sort could be the schools attended by the juvenile, where he mixes up with diverse characters probably under uncouth teacher(s). Like saplings, children can assume any direction, when bent, shaped up and not when they become gigantic trees.
This is where the religious houses come in. Our religious houses are expected to be the vital centres in the development of youths, but unfortunately, they are commercialised, with their foci on membership-increase to generate more money. Incessant night vigils are diversionary. Which devils are pursuing these young minds? Emphasis must be on character-mouldings and not on instilling fear of bogeyman pursuing their lives. In the religious houses – churches and mosques, they spend more hours and days than on their studies. Invariably, children are too much inclined to religious programmes to the detriments of their academic studies. The passion for these programmes explains the annual records of massive failures in Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations. Are the pastors and imams grooming the children to be perpetually inured to these religious houses as future founders of churches and mosques? Much as I am not against their spiritual rejuvenation, what I am advocating is that excess of anything is bad.
In the religious premises, if the children are not gambolling like lambs in the meadow, they are dancing or undergoing spiritual baths in protection from imagined devils. Children hide under the “canopy” of these religious programmes to evade their studies; they are too much engrossed in revelries. One other habit of parents is addressing their children negative tongues, cursing them “olori buruku”, “olodo” – “cypher, block heads, moron, good-for-nothing”. An author on Principles of Teaching said, “such foul languages make them what they become.” Parents must be positive.
Some of our political leaders are what they are today, because of what their homes, educational institutions and religious houses cut out for them. I cannot fail to relish the recent admonitions of Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, when he said: “Most of the recorded cases of domestic violence in the country today were due to dysfunctional family backgrounds. We are all born into a family and our families shape our lives. Some of the important moments of our lives take place within our families”.
His wife, Bolanle Ambode said: “The bad behaviours affecting the society were traceable to change in family values which, had been on the decline. The most important legacy we can give to our children is to adequately care for them, inculcate in them societal values, equip them with good morals, through education and socialisation and train them in the fear of the Lord”.
Well said! But when do we start? How do we start? And who initiate(s) action?
• Oshisada, a veteran journalist, lives in Ikorodu, Lagos