Friday, April 14, 2006

Beyond the nuclear option

Its time for some balance and to stress some Nigerian positives and Western negatives. For the latter, need one look further than the UK, where Tony Bliar's neo-labour project becomes enmired in sleaze, via the cash-for-peerages row? The man has to go and the Tories need to try harder to kick the Labour party out of its slumberous complacency. One also hopes this marks the death-knell for ppp in the Education sector (at least). We don't want creationism-as-an-alternative-to-evolution taught in science classes, thanks very much Mr Vardy.. I for one will crack open the bubbly when the Blair project (Thatcherism by proxy) is finally laid to rest.

Meanwhile, on to something I deeply admire about Nigeria:

I've always had a rose-tinted view of extended families. I grew up in a loving nuclear family, with wonderful parents and a big-hearted sister. Some of favourite memories however are when our segment of the family joined forces with other branches.

We used to go to Cornwall every year with a bunch of Aunts, Uncles and cousins, to the same house near Padstow ("Miss Yelland's Bungalow"). I have beautiful warmglow memories of witty banter, food, drink, people gathered round the TV for FA cup finals and cascades of laughter.

In this respect, I think one of the really positive models the West can learn from Nigeria is having a more pragmatic approach to child-rearing, based around the Nigerian/African extended-family model. In a nuclear context, when parents break up, or if a single-parent situation arises in other ways, it is generally viewed as a very difficult and often traumatising event for the child. In Nigeria, if a difficult situation arises with the parents or parent, the child can simply be farmed out to a more accommodating situation.

Instead of ego-trauma as in the West, the fluidity of parenting opportunities in the extended family situation means the child does not experience the shift in a negative fashion. I'm sure many Nigerians can find the extended family testing at times, but there is I think something very much more practical and risk-mitigating about this approach. There was something similar amongst the working class in Britain years ago, but it has more or less died out.

More, there seems to me to be a much healthier approach to parenting and discipline in the Nigerian context than in the UK. The parent-as-friend model has gone way too far in the UK. One only has to watch Supernanny (yes my life has been reduced to watching such things) on BBC - a programme featuring episode after episode of dreadful children being brought to heel by a practical and wise nanny figure - to see how bad things have got. The lack of boundaries in many British families turn the children in little Hitlers. In the Nigerian scenario, those boundaries remain firmly in place and techniques such as supernanny's naughty corner are second nature.

All this reminds me in part of Plato's Republic. Plato's view 2500 years ago was that in the perfect State, children would be brought up by parent-experts - people trained in child-rearing techniques. Biological parents would give up their children to these parent-experts at birth. The children would therefore not know who their biological parents were. Beyond that, Plato trails off into a curious form of meritocracy - whereby people with 'gold' in their soul become warrior-kings, those with 'silver' in their soul get cushy administrative jobs, and those with 'bronze' in their soul dig the ditches. Not sure about the metallurgic metaphor or the meritocracy it tries to support, but the suggestion of universal bastardry is an interesting one. Perhaps the Nigerian extended family is the most practical realisation of this idea. In any event, programmes such as supernanny reveal the worst that can go wrong in a Western nuclear context.


St Antonym 11:56 pm  

On the other hand, Naija parents sabi beat person. Chineke!

Oyinbos generally spoil their kids, it's true, and it's a very serious problem, but Naija parents also need to chill a little bit. They don't have to be so obsessed with "respect."

How many people grow up in Nigeria with parents that they end of fearing. My parents weren't so bad (hi mom!), but I'm still a bit jealous of my oyinbo and akata (and even Asian) friends who are very close to their momsies and popsies. People tell me their mom is their best friend, and I just can't get my head around it. During my teens, me and my mom and dad, it was like Enter the Dragon all day every day. And we were "close" compared to some.

I think this will change in Naija the coming generation. The distance between parent and child will be mitigated a bit. And that's to the good.

Edo Benin,  10:11 am  

Centuries ago, papa and mama dey beat pepper out of dem pikin for England. My Oyinbo friend sef, di school wey im papa go for the 1930's, dem dey beat di pikins no be small. Na that time we still dey for 9ja.

Edo Benin,  10:12 am

Akin 10:58 am  

Indeed extended families serve their purposes, I sometimes ruminate about how it probably makes child-rearing easier than in the West.

Also, child discipline is important, but sometimes our parents find themselves brutalising and abusing the child thinking it is hard punishment.

Once when my parents ganged up on me, all my father said was "Mind his eyes". (That was all of an expression of deep love, concern and control).

My mum was a school principal so we all had to be "Nelson Column" examples of good conduct and more.

However, the downside to this as St Antonym notes is that we never get to develop a good and vibrant parent-child friendship and some of us are yet to be forgiving of times when things could have been better managed.

As I run a large family of ONE, my extended family outlook is a lot smaller than my patriarch father expects me to oversee.

Somehow, I prefer the nuclear option.

nigeria, what's new 11:08 am  

Yes, I agree that TBlair should go but not because of the "neo-labour project becomes enmired in sleaze, via the cash-for-peerages row?", he seemed to have run out of ideas. The Tories are still working on the next big thing while No. 11 has perfected a solution and I think GBrown will be the next PM.

Education cannot be funded by the state entirely hence ppp. In my experience as a school governor, my "not so poor" borough can only do as much. Unless you turn the PTA into an unpaid fully fledged marketing outfit, you will NOT be able to get the best out of the school as a whole.

What will you replace Thatcherism with? Uthopia?

About This Blog

  © Blogger templates Psi by 2008

Back to TOP