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Whilst acknowledging that some achievements are
evidence of ‘good’ children, some traits are evidence of ‘bad’ children.
In the 1940’s top offences in state schools in America
were mostly: running in hallways, chewing gum, wearing improper clothing (including
leaving out your shirttail), making noise, not putting paper in the waste
basket, etc.
From the onset of the new millennium top offences
included murder, rape, robbery, assault, personal theft, burglary, drug abuse,
arson, bombings, alcohol abuse, carrying weapons, absenteeism, vandalism and extortion.
We may think that is America.
In Nigeria
the list would look something like this – robbery, rape, abortion, cultism, homosexuality,
theft, exam malpractice, impersonation, fraud, cheating, substance abuse,
carrying weapons (knives), absenteeism, vandalism, extortion, etc.
Some offences lead to major problems, for example,
substance abuse can lead to psychological imbalance. The greatest problems from
sexual immorality used to be pregnancy, gonorrhea and syphilis. Now it is AIDS.
The sad truth is that we do not have social support
systems in place in Nigeria
to support or help people that have these problems.
We have, at best, elders and family support, and
counselling teams that are usually church- related and sporadically &
informally run.
As sophisticated as we may appear to be, psychological
imbalance in Nigeria
is seen as “madness,” the person is written off and the family
stigmatized.  A visit to a psychiatric hospital
must be conducted in utmost secrecy as once such news gets out the family
profile is permanently damaged.
In Nigeria,
the simple truth is that ‘weirdos’ are not tolerated. Ian Huntley, the man who
killed two ten year – old children, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in England in
August 2002, was known to be ‘odd’, and yet he continued in his job till it
manifested into murder.
The Nigeria
system would not have provided a second identity for Ian’s girlfriend, Maxine
Carr, who assisted him in his dastardly acts. She would have been written off
for life.
The adage for the rest of the world is ‘prevention is
better than cure’. In Nigeria,
there is usually no cure for some of the social ills that children could get afflicted
with. Therefore, we could say matter of factly, that ‘prevention is the only
It is so very important that we get things right with
our children in Nigeria,
remembering who we are. Our African culture does not allow second chances so it
is so very important than we get things right the first time.
More than ever before therefore, it is important that
our children turn out right and are not stigmatized by the society before they
fully mature.
The African rumor mill is strong, effective, vicious,
and unforgiving! Many a young girl never got married because rumors of
promiscuity had been spread about her. All serious suitors were thereafter
confronted with the ‘information’ without the girl having a chance to defend herself
or prove that she had truly repented.
We noted earlier that we are an evolving group of
parents. In the same way, our children are also evolving.
They are under the influence of the internet and
(international) cable television. They have less of an African indoctrination
than we had since we have not faithfully imparted our culture, so the children
owe the African continent very little allegiance, if any. They actually
conclude their secondary school education with every intention of crossing
international borders and blending with the rest of the world. They are
particularly drawn by the allure of black musicians, especially from the United States of America.
The American accent, the walk and the fashion of the stars all spring at them
from the television screen and they love it! The sad thing about this is that
the musicians and film stars that our kids view as role models do not have the
same backgrounds neither do they have the same values that we are trying to
inculcate in them. The foreign musicians live in countries that provide social
welfare packages and ensure that kids can go to school free. With a few
exceptions, most of the black artists nonetheless drop out of school and
finally manage to get out of their ghettos and ‘projects’ by employing their
We, on the other hand, live in a country that has no
social support packages but we are ready to spend our last penny educating our
children to the highest levels possible.
We therefore have an uphill task of explaining to them
that our values and goals are completely different and we have an even bigger
task of explaining why they can take some of the fashion and some of the walk
and the talk but not all of it.
Having laid this foundation, common areas where our
children fail have been identified as follows;
Except the child suffers from health issues that
affect his or her academic output in school, this problem is one that can be
easily corrected. As mentioned earlier, we live in a country where labor is
cheap and therefore we have access to private tutors, (lesson teachers) who can
assist children with their school work. Once this problem has been identified,
and parents have enough time to monitor the child and work with the school, the
problem can be solved.
When it is not corrected in time however, usually due
to the influence of doting mothers, it becomes a bigger problem because the low
output continues through life, and the young person becomes a less than average
worker and provider.
Africans do not look kindly on children throwing
tantrums in public places such as shops and churches and certainly not when
they are over a certain age. Firm discipline is still a quality of most African
families. Caning and spanking are still accepted as a normal means of correcting
children and therefore our children usually quickly learn to ‘behave’. I still
am regularly upset and embarrassed when in first world countries I see children
that are under six or seven throwing tantrums and generally being uncontrollable,
unmanageable, oftentimes to the complete consternation of their parents. Some
of the parliaments of these countries have passed laws allowing only minimal
punishment, often to the detriment of such countries.
Bullying is a problem that one expects a child to have
outgrown by adolescence. However, when not properly tackled, it manifests still
in adulthood and I would like to surmise that a lot of dictator leaders that Africa is so full of started off in this manner. We also often
wonder how some husbands become abusive and violent and, again, we need to
correct those traits when we notice them in our children
Rough, dirty children are a disgrace to any parent and
when such children are teenagers it is even more disgraceful. One should not
imagine that those problems will suddenly disappear when they become grown men
and women and they should therefore be addressed early enough.
Despite the height of corruption in the country, we
still look down on thieves, people in the society who have corruptly enriched
themselves, fraudsters and those who lie and cheat.
Children who display these traits are automatically
labelled and even the parents are looked upon with disdain for having raised
such children.
Immorality is usually a problem associated with
females, maybe because the assumption is that men should not say no to the gift
of a free woman. Men had better begin to learn to say no, though the likelihood
of more women competing for fewer men continues to stare us in the face.
Some men are even referred to as womanizers, in the
same manner that someone would be termed a lover of football. The simple truth
is that years of sowing wild oats as they say, or childhood spent chasing
everything that walked by in a skirt can certainly not be training for a
marriage of faithfulness to one partner!
Our conservatism in Nigeria fortunately, does not allow
for open displays of homosexuality and lesbianism, although it does seem that
they are struggling to come out of the closet into the open.
Our society still looks down on immorality and it is
important that young girls who are feed their vanity by saying ‘yes’ to every
boy learns to understand that society will not forget the history they create
for themselves.
From cigarette smoking, to the drinking of alcohol, to
the taking of hard drugs, no parent needs be told that there can be excesses in
this area that may actually lead to serious ailments. It therefore seems difficult
to advice that you tell a child; you can smoke but only a little and
drink but only so much. Aside from the moral aspect of these matters, the
health issues are serious, and more importantly the social problems it has
brought upon families that have these issues are worth serious thought and
counseling. As aforesaid, Nigeria
hardly gives second chances. There is no coming back and seldom rehabilitation
for a drug addict!
We may appear sophisticated but we are still extremely
conservative in thought and action. On the other hand our children have been
exposed to all sorts of foreign cultures all their lives. Therefore when the
influences find expression, all sorts of things appear. Good job offers have
been lost because of an earring in the ear of the young and seemingly intelligent
applicant. A tattoo on the arm of a prospective job seeker will certainly not
get him a job as a lawyer; neither will dread locks get him a job as a
doctor. Whether we like it or not appearances matter and we cannot expect our
children not to reap the consequences of their appearance. I emphatically state
to my children, no permanent body fads, so that when that fashion passes you
are not permanently scarred with a passing fad! As Africans, the fashion at one
time was tribal marks cut boldly on the faces of children. Many years later we
state, ‘that was cruel!’ Tattoos are no better in my thinking!
Needless to say, habits like the ‘sagging’ of trousers
and wearing a tight mini skirt to a job interview will also not get our
children into the right jobs.  Having an
appropriate dress sense is important.
The new fad of showing adults ‘attitude’ is totally disrespectful.
Though it is a mite better than outright rudeness and sauciness, it is damaging
as it may subtly escape notice and grow till it becomes engrained in adult
behavior. This usually manifests amongst teenagers as a sullen, cool,
appearance and a complete distaste for anything decent, formal, or regular.
Much as we need to respect the individuality of these young men and women, they
still have to conform to societal norms and practices. We must realize that the
whole world could dissolve into absolute chaos and anarchy if everyone was
allowed to do his own thing!
This is a situation that is very often brought on by
the parents or the active imagination of the child.
Unfortunately it may be also dictated by circumstances
of life itself and when this is the case it will take the wisest of parents to resolve
this ugly problem.
It is important to avoid comparing children. When the
circumstances of life then affect each child, there will not be any remarks
lurking in the memories of the less fortunate child.
It is the duty of parents to be instrumental in
building up each child’s self esteem and confidence such that the children will
only appreciate the differences in their siblings and not resent it! I also
suggest healthy gaps between children; as such gaps seem to remove a lot of
basis for comparison. I do concede though, that such planned spacing is not
always possible.
The amount of money we spend buying toys and gadgets
for our children and then replacing them all over again, should bring home to
us the reality that our children, most of the time, have no understanding of
the value of money. Though this problem is also closely related to bad
housekeeping skills, our children need to appreciate the fact that everything
they have costs money that their parents have, presumably worked hard for, and
therefore has to be treated with care. Carelessness can be forgiven when a
pencil is lost but when a mobile phone, text books, school uniforms or even
laptops are handled without an understanding of their value, this becomes a
cause for concern.
It is pertinent to mention that, no matter how bad the
signs may be a child can still change. Indeed tales of bad children that have
become pillars of society abound. Therefore, irrespective of how many of these
signs one recognizes in ones child or how early or late one does see the signs,
the good news is that a good parent knows something can be done about it. The
converse is that sometimes the signs are not so obvious and yet children turn
out bad.   
Our plan is to catch the symptoms early and turn the
situations around. Our desire is to raise balanced children that grow up to
give back their best to society and then, themselves raise balanced children.
Our prayer is to be able to acknowledge sooner, rather than later, that we are
successful parents!
Quotable quotes
What parents do in moderation children will do in
A new teacher, Mr. Get It Right, arrived in our
school. He came from Igbo
Irumole High
school very highly recommended. He has a first
degree in Mathematics and a Masters degree in Applied Mathematics. In his
former school, corporal punishment was permitted. He was told when appointed
that the British Curriculum was followed and that only nominal punishment could
be carried out by the authorities at our school.
On arrival he settled down quickly and adhered to the
rules as best as he could. He was however yet to meet President Amin’s
She came into his Mathematics class with her long hair
swinging, (hair ‘attachment’ of course), late as usual. The whole class knows
she comes to class late but Mr. Get It Right does not know that.
Mr. Get It Right informs her that ‘no one to my class
20 minutes late and if you do, you either stand in all my classes for the rest
of the month or you leave my class’. ‘Baby’ (that’s her name) replies, “did you
say your class? My father donated this classroom block as a millennium present
to the school. Check out whose class it really is”.
‘I don’t care who your father is, you must leave now’
replied Mr. Get It Right. Baby answers, “this guy is playing with fire” and
flounces out of the class.
The next morning, a long motorcade with sirens wailing
arrives at the school and the first Lady steps out, locates Mr. Get It Right
and gives him the full length of her tongue.
In conclusion she informs Mr. Get It Right that her
daughter ‘knows who she is, knows her place and is no Lame duck’. She orders
her daughter back to the class and asks her to sit down.
1.     What had first Lady trained
her children to become?
2.     Did the teacher do anything
wrong? If so, how should the parent handle it?
3.     What should the school do?
4.     What do you think the future
of “Baby’s” Math lessons will be?

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