By Allahnana Attah
I have had occasions to query the amount of love and care parents and the entire society have for children, the young ones and leaders of tomorrow, as they are commonly referred to. This query arises from my wondering and concern at the manner these young ones are treated during grow and aspiration to leadership positions. My conclusion is that much is not being done by all stakeholders as mere lip service is paid to this issue.
Nigerians are noted for being very close to God, and it is thus expected that their “religiosity” is actually manifested in their daily lifestyles. Well it seems the adage that “the closer one is to the church/mosque, the farther he/she is from God” is clearly operational here. This explanation looks plausible considering the way and manner issues regarding children upbringing are handled. I say so because the Holy Books clearly state the importance of good and godly training for children. It is averred that, ‘if you train a child properly, he/she will not depart from those cherished teachings and tenets’ inculcated in them right from their youthful stages.
Sad fact is that the African tradition regarding children upbringing as societal responsibility is hardly in vogue today as parents see their children as cherished gold that should not reprimanded even when they stray from good teachings. They easily forget that gold has to undergo very high temperatures through fire to attain the expected refinement which attracts high value and earning. The child therefore must be seen as that precious gold desired by buyers and which must undergo some refinement process in other to be appreciated.
Results from abandoning such responsibility is clear as these children do not have any cherished values in them and as such cannot pass any to future generations. It is certainly a situation of being unable to give what you also lack. It is not enough to beat our chests to the number of wives, children, grand and great grandchildren we have without doing same as regards their characters and behaviours. Their upbringing should attract equal importance and pride as births.
A disturbing event took place in Lafia, the Nasarawa state capital, recently when some children were rescued from an Islamic teacher by concerned citizens through the police for violent and inhuman capital punishment. News filtered through the local air waves of how this scholar inflicted grave body injuries on these children, apparently from severe flogging using horse whip (koboko), in the pretext of teaching them to be of good behavior.
Story has it that this young Islamic scholar ordered these kids not go to certain areas of the town seeking for alms, but for violating his “sacred” directive, he found it most expedient to “teach” them lessons of their lives through extreme use of the whip “in order not to spoil the child”. True the saying that if you “spare the rod, you spoil the child” is African, it does not make for inhuman treatment on children who ought to be under parental care.
Sad aspect of this macabre drama involving the scholar and government agencies that rescued these children is that they were all confronted with a disturbing scenario as all the nine (9) children entrusted to this Mallam’s care were aged between seven (7) and nine (9) years. More disheartening is that they were blood relations of the scholar, who was unmarried when the incident occurred on June 16th, 2014. Shocked at this revelation, I concluded the man never knew the pains of parenthood and therefore had no value attached to the kids under his care.
The scholar’s maltreatment of these kids became open following alarm by a neighbour in the Shinge area of the town. The neighbor, a staff of the Human Rights Commission, reported the incident to the Lafia office prompting senior officers to swing into action alongside the police. The prompt intervention of security operatives saved the situation as the man was arrested and taken into custody alongside the children. The Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development led by the Director of Child Welfare stepped in by transferring the minors out of police custody to the Maimuna Katai Orphanage for proper care. While the children were being taken care off, parents of the “rejected and abandoned” kids were summoned from far away Kano, Kano State, birthplace and home of the kids, to come forward and claim them. That this was successfully done is kudos to the Nasarawa State government for stepping in, taking care of the kids and commencing legal action against the scholar. We are awaiting outcome of this case.
The mention of Kano reminded me of an encounter with a child at a fuel filling station. The boy, about 9-10years old approached me and muttered inaudible words. I took interest and called to hear him better, and as we talked I discovered he was soliciting for alms. In response to my inquiry on why he was not in school that morning, he remarked that his teacher sent them out to seek alms to enable him feed them. Further questioning revealed that his parents in Kano sent him out in search of knowledge. No quarrel about the objective, but my concern is; why this far and in the hands of someone not capable of taking care of the child? My feel is that the parents only abdicated their responsibility of training this child and in the process exposed him to all threats of life.
Lesson is that parents who procreate only to abdicate their responsibilities to these God given gifts are being wicked to their offspring and the entire society. Imagine the health hazards such kids are exposed to, especially being accommodated in places unbefitting for human habitation, not to talk of risks exposed to including ritual killings and being political thugs. The kids are subjected to hunger resorting to stealing for survival. Such scenario is unthinkable and strange to caring parents who would readily surrender their meals to children just as a mother chicken does to its own.
In these times when poverty of the fear of God is prevalent amongst people, such children are highly vulnerable to adulterated religious and hate teachings. Bankrupt scholars with nothing to offer will definitely pollute the blank and innocent minds of these young ones. The fear of these children being ready armies for the prosecution of hate wars on adherents of other religions and ethnic groups due to indoctrination is very high. In this era of Boko Haram insurgency, kidnapping, cultism, communal clashes and other social vices that plague the country, Nigeria cannot afford to let its young future leaders get into situations that will further endanger the lives and communal living of other citizens.
The administration of Governor Al-Makura of Nasarawa State surely deserves a pat on the back in efforts at ensuring that conducive learning environments are provided with well-built classes, toilets and hostels for pupils and students in schools across the state. The huge investments put into the education sector through free education, from primary to secondary school level, will only make meaning when children are made to attend such schools and thus benefit from the facilities and investment. A situation where the Governor opens up his arms widely to accept people into the state and even grant them access to facilities without discrimination, only for such gestures to be under-utilized or abused is counter-productive and therefore unacceptable.
I am aware that some states have banned street begging as well as ensuring that “almajarai” school system takes proper footing. While we appreciate such efforts, we hasten to state that parents abdicating their responsibilities to children in such states by sending them “away” pose potential threats to our peaceful co-existence. The constitution guarantees freedom of movement, residence and association, but we must note that no right is unlimited. It will do us well to care for our young ones today in order to make them useful in the future.
Allahnana Attah can be reached at email@example.com