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Where is the Nigerian child?

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In all human history, the youth have always been nurtured as leaders of the future and hope for a better society because of the fresh perspectives they bring to the table having drunk from the cup of knowledge offered by their parents. They are a bridge between the past and the present so that they can face the future. For this reason, every society invests in its youth through education, inculcation of sound moral ideas and cultural mores. African folklore is replete with narratives, which teach lessons on the nature of the relationship between parents and their children.

As we grapple with different contending and often contentious political, social, religious, and economic issues in our land, we may need to address the minds of parents, teachers, and leaders to what we consider to be a fundamental question: where is the Nigerian child?

In other words, where is that Nigerian child properly brought up on core values, which form the basis of future interaction with the world? This question has become necessary in the light of the attitude of our millennials to their environment and the cultural ethos of their fatherland. For, as a people, we stress the primacy of mutual respect, respect for parents, parental obligations, adherence to family values and other codes of socio-cultural engagements – as we noted only yesterday in our comment on role models.

Are there still values, which we hold dear and sacrosanct in our country at any level? Have parents either by design or default abdicated their roles in child-upbringing while in pursuit of the notorious mammon of unrighteousness? Have the rulers of Nigeria imparted enough ethical conduct to the next generation with which they can take on the reins of leadership to sustain and/or transform Nigeria? Is the Nigerian child a victim of the ‘wasted generation’ so magisterially declared by our only Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka? What havoc have teachers wreaked on the educational system that has occasioned the obtuse ‘school is a scam’ mantra of the millennials?  Why have most millennials decided to imbibe wrong values or created a world, a sub-culture, which is often at variance with the time-tested values of hard work, faithfulness, integrity, honesty, and long-term commitment to goals? Are there still men and women of honour whom the millennials can look up to as role models? To what extent can we hold the political class responsible for this breakdown, which has seeped into the bloodstream of the Nigerian child? What can we – parents, policy framers, teachers, religious leaders, and political class – do to reverse the ugly trend that could be the death of our society?

These are indeed haunting but germane questions for parents, both biological and surrogate, guardians, teachers, political office holders and the millennials themselves. Millennials are described as ‘well educated, confident, ambitious, achievement-oriented, and technologically-savvy’ and are ‘not afraid to question authority’ in their place of domicile or work. They question and interrogate boundaries, physical and otherwise, and see life from a broader perspective. It is a universal phenomenon, a ‘movement’ of sorts, brought together and shaped by the limitless possibilities of the brave new world as presented in social media and other forms of cyber connectivity. However, for the typical Nigerian, whereas he has benefited from the world culture, his own native culture is virtually absent in the permutations of that glamorous world. He has therefore become subservient, even obsequious to values, which are alien to his culture. The world is a global village; but what has the Nigerian millennial brought to the global table? It is this inability of our millennials to find a nexus between the world of social media and their local culture that may have created a mindset that is now troubling and troubled.

It is disturbing, this trend particularly as it manifests in lack of respect for age and seniority and certain cultural dynamics of society. But as parents and leaders, some of us have displayed bad examples to the Nigerian child. The contradictions between official status and level of wealth is often glaring. Parents in cults cannot command any respect if they as much as mention the evil of cultism to their wards and kids. How can a civil servant or politician parent whose income is known and who lives far beyond his legitimate means have the moral voice to preach honesty and integrity to his children? But this has become the order of the day. Some parents are ready to defraud the system for their kids to get on in life. Age falsification, hiring academic ‘mercenaries’ to write examinations for their kids, sending their wards to the notorious ‘miracle centres’, and fathering without being a parent are some of the despicable practices which some parents indulge in.

After early parenting, the first port of social engineering for the child is in the education system, often represented by the teacher. Time was when the teacher was an iconic figure in moral values. Parents sent their kids to stay with teachers to learn some life-long lessons. But in the last thirty odd years, that image has all but disappeared. There are too many teachers who are not committed to the profession that are in the classrooms. They do not teach with commitment anymore. Some do petty trading while classes are on. Yet others prey on their wards in different forms, sexually and financially. Indeed, pupils hardly see any inspiration in most teachers.

Some teachers simply ask their wards to go and search on the Internet for answers. Which is not to assert that there are no sound and committed teachers keeping to the archetypal traditions of the noble profession. It would seem however that too many poorly committed teachers stand in place of parents in too many classrooms. Sadly, even some of the elitist schools for which parents pay millions of naira are not excluded from this malady. Some parents send their wards to Canada, the United Kingdom and America to prepare for advanced levels examinations, thereby exporting hard currency to prosperous economies. How many nations allow its citizens to drain its economies with such expenditure? The verdict of parents is that the Nigerian education system is inadequate for the needs of the rich.

The time has come to halt the slide. The Nigerian child must be re-born through example and practice. Parents need a re-orientation about their roles. A disjointed family is a breeding ground for a disjointed society. Parents should remember that a child who is not properly brought up by parents cannot fit into society. Proper and correct values should be stressed and practised at the home front. Moral preachment is not enough. By their fruits you shall know them, so the scripture asserts.

Our youth should recognise the many years of experience which their parents have and learn lessons from them. Our elders asserted in words of wisdom that, ‘what an old man sees sitting down, a young man cannot see even while atop a tree’. Such elemental courtesies that befit parents should be accorded them. Youths should not copy wrong values. Internet fraud, ‘419’, or the notorious ‘yahoo-yahoo’ scam is not a proper way of life. It is not smart.

It is a life of crime that the Nigerian child should be ashamed of. They should challenge fraudulent or dishonest behaviour wherever they are found. They should face the challenges of life with honesty and hard work. Hard work pays. Education properly utilised opens channels for those who use them. All told, there is a lesson from a classic by Senator John McCain of blessed memory that ‘character is destiny’. In the final scheme of things, good will always triumph over negative things. The earlier the Nigerian child imbibes this, the better for us!


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