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Published On: Fri, Jul 25th, 2014

What are we teaching our children?

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By Sylvester Ojenagbon

My daughter, a nine-year-old, is about to enter primary school. She recently passed the entrance examination to one of the secondary schools of our choice and was invited for an interview. Since I could not stay with her on the day of the interview, I dropped her and her uncle – my brother-in-law – off at the venue and went to work. Less than an hour later, I got a call saying that she would not be interviewed until she had brought the small card that admitted her for the initial examination. In addition, she was to bring two passport photographs. If those things were that important, I wondered why she was not clearly asked in the first place to come along with them.

My argument was that she should be interviewed, after which we would submit whatever else was needed. But the interviewers would have none of that. According to them, they were trying to guard against the experience they had the previous year with some of the children who were invited for the interview. Some parents were said to have arranged for older and more intelligent children to attend the interview for their own children.

Now, we are talking about primary school pupils who are about to enter secondary school. And parents are already employing or bribing others to attend an interview for them? Only God knows how many of these parents got others to write the entrance exam for their children. For the record, these are children who are not older than 10 or 12 (at most), and we are already teaching them how to cheat or get something in life without working hard for it? And to think this is not a government secondary school; it is a Christian school.

Then I remembered another incident involving my friend and her son. He was about to finish secondary school, so she registered him for the University Matriculation Examination (UME). She did everything she could to ensure that he was prepared for the examination and even made it a prayer point. On the day of the examination, she personally drove him to the centre, just to give him all the moral support he needed. But that was when the drama started.

The centre was a beehive of activities as many candidates made last minute efforts to ensure that they passed the exam at all cost. As she waited for her son to enter his class, she noticed another woman who was noticeably anxious. My friend wondered what the problem was but decided, after some time, to speak with the woman when it was obvious that her anxiety was not abating.

My friend was curious to know what the thing was, and that was when she discovered that the woman had paid someone to bring the answers to the exam questions for her son. Unfortunately, the person was nowhere to be found, and the woman was determined not to let her child go into the exam hall without the answers. Somehow, the woman felt it was an obligation she owed her child as, according to her, no one passed such exams on their own anymore.

It was at that point my friend’s son, who had seen all the drama, became nervous and was reluctant to enter for the exam. If everybody needed to cheat before gaining admission to the university, he wondered why he should write the exam at all since her mother had said he must never cheat. It was at that point my friend decided that her son would not go to university in Nigeria. Although they could not really afford it, she and her husband had to look for a way to send the young man to Canada for A’ Levels, like most other people who can afford it.

Now, I always thought that, as part of the solution to our many leadership woes, we would need to deliberately train our children to discern right from wrong before they are old enough to start bowing to the pressures of life. But it seems some corruptive elements in our society are bent on raising the next generation of their own type and are initiating the children early. And these are not just in government; it is obvious they are everywhere, including our homes.

The question is: How can Nigeria become better when we, as parents, are messing up the minds and lives of our children? What kind of parents are we? What does a fraudulent parent, politician, civil servant or businessman teach his or her children? What kind of children do we intend to leave our world (family, business, wealth or whatever) for? There used to be something called family name; where is it today?

If we are dissatisfied with the status quo and truly want a change at any level, then we must make a decision not to corrupt our children. As parents, we must not darken their future by our corruptive tendencies. We have messed up too many things already to start messing up the lives of our children. They deserve to have a clean slate for their own future; we must not, in any way, muddy up that slate.

Sylvester Ojenagbon is on linkedIn


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