The task of bringing up children is no longer what it used to be. Ancient landmarks associated with acceptable codes of training kids have shifted, and in other instances, completely erased. The African child is now a cousin of the Western developed economies and respect for rules that once attracted non-Africans to the virtues of child upbringing as practised in the past is no longer there.
Call it the changing times, but it is certain that parents, who are products of the glorious past, have changed their attitudes and embraced foreign ways of training children. No doubt, modern life, fraught with the jet age syndrome, where the traditional system has been erased, is largely responsible for this change of perspectives.
For those who were kids before the 1980s, being children carried varying responsibilities. Apart from seeing the teacher as an epitome of discipline and morality, any threat by parents to report a child to their teachers was then deemed a serious matter that could turn the poor child into a crying human object for hours.
That was the era when money was taken for only what it was: currency for the purchase of goods and services. Parents then were not only the agency of proper children upbringing; but every member of the community was a rod of discipline for any erring child. Once outside the home, children became conscious that, though out of their parents’ sight, the eyes of the community were on them. They dared not misbehave to attract the reprimand of itching hands that were in a hurry to discipline any form of misbehaviour.
Once beaten outside the home, children avoid carrying the news home in order to avoid additional punishment. When children cried home in the past, and reported that they had been beaten outside, they stood the risk of getting more beatings. In the past, parents have reportedly thanked community members for beating their children over acts of misbehavior.
It is obvious that though some of the children were beaten by envious persons, respect for elders and the rationality of their decisions in disciplining children were unquestionable. In allowing members of the community to be involved in training children, the consciousness in children to always behave themselves at all times proved rewarding in making them become good citizens of not only the community but the nation.
Unlike the fear and respect teachers enjoyed in the past from their pupils, the reverse is now the case. I visited my village sometime in 2000 and took a walk to the primary school that I still hold in awe. I recall some of my teachers whose names alone were capable of resetting my mental state. ‘Bujabuja, Mai Kan Zabo, Dogo’! A summon from any of them was then instantly capable of drawing tears to many stubborn children’s eyes.
As I entered the class that was then Primary 3 during my time in school, I recalled how pupils were banned from speaking vernacular. It became noiseless for many, but for some with an ability to speak smattering English, they were more proud to have their names on the list of noisemakers than keep silent with the dumb. The class would eventually turn into a market during the teaching of the Hausa language.
To my shock, I discovered that some primary school pupils were then friends to teachers. It was an anathema during my time to be a teacher’s friend. However, all this has changed with the emphasis on the freedom of the child. The demarcation between teacher and pupil was then unmistakably clear and unambiguous. Pupils were meant to respect teachers and not relate with them on a friendly basis.
Near the primary school I attended, a secondary school has been built. The relationship between teachers and students, who are still mostly minors, is a cause for concern. Apart from skipping classes to work on farms owned by teachers, some of the male students provided accommodations to male teachers to have “good times” with female students. In some instances, male teachers have impregnated their female students, thereby leading to the abrupt stoppage of education for these female students.
Here in Abuja, stories of parents storming schools to settle scores with teachers accused to have wielded the big stick on their children are not strange. Some parents have brought up their children to think they are above corrections. Except in a few situations where some teachers overstretch their disciplinary instincts by deploying the rod so hard, education administrators should step in and save the day.
Children are the future. Considering the quality of students we are churning out from our schools, the future seems to carry bowleg. We must allow those hard experiences that made us appreciate the fact that life is a battlefield and nothing good comes easy.
The introduction of Western behaviours, then dubbed as American lifestyle, became visible in the 1980s when parents, aided by government’s failure to regulate certain foreign behaviours, caved in to pressures to allow certain fashion styles that exposed children to the power of money. I recall that as children in the barracks, it was our pastime to pelt stones on young girls who were then indecently dressed, and walking the streets in tight fitting clothes. Though the resistance from religious leaders, especially Christianity, was not stringent enough to deter young minds, we soon gave up the stoning session when we woke one bad morning to see our aunties and sisters, joining the mad chase for beauty.
The danger of this was not in the quest for beautification; the real danger was the focus on money as the ultimate source of making things beautiful. It soon became the vogue for village and urban centre girls to deploy all forms of manipulations to get money from any available source to walk on the highway of the new fashion. That was what brought the ‘Sugar Daddy’ syndrome into existence where elderly males abandon their families to fund the luxuries of young ladies in search of better life.
With money as the new god of the age, leaders in public service soon discovered how they could help themselves by empting public treasury into their foreign bank accounts for fear of future uncertainty. When in January 1966 Major Kaduna Nzeogwu overthrew the First Republic, he had hinged his action on corruption where politicians were alleged to demand 10 percent kickback on contracts. Now, the practice is beyond 10 percent. We have present instances where jobs are awarded and no work done, but the money is fully paid. Most departments of government are now collaborating agencies for corruption, making it difficult for the fight against sleaze and fraud to scale through.
The enthronement of money as the major source of pride remains the disparagement of our glorious past. When nations monetise their conscience, the path to excellence is compromised. That is what has made parents to be constantly involved in the management of their children’s affairs. The ability to allow children to fall and rise gives them the confidence needed to embrace the tortuous journey of life. If children of the past could contribute to the economy of her children by attending to farm chores and participating in trading to augment the incomes of their parents, there is no reason why today’s parents would abandon the past and embrace the culture of slaving for children that are now embracing the epicurean lifestyle.
Children brought under hardship rise to achieve their great destinies by working towards their future. It is the responsibility of parents to ensure children are brought up in a way to ensure the greatness of the future. The prevailing slaving syndrome by parents for their kids is a recipe for doom.
Parents train children not to live with them but leave them to dare and make a great future. That is why parents, in collaboration with the government, must retreat to the ancient landmarks of honesty and sincerity in order to facilitate the return of yesterday’s greatness.
As it is now, Nigerian parents are presently rationalising self-entitlement demands by their children. This must stop, if we are to build a country where the children are happy to live and dream big, while parents die in contentment.