Thursday, 25 April 2013

Opinion: The Challenge of Rearing Nigerian Children Abroad

An embarrassment of heritage
I was rather discomfited by the news of the conviction of 8 teenagers yesterday for the killing of another teenager in 2010.
There are issues with gang warfare and disputes in London but the brazenness with which these youngsters carried out their assault on another in plain public view leaves one wondering what our society has become.
One teenager stood in the middle of the road wielding a samurai sword and they ended up chasing the victim into a busy London Underground Station where they as many as 15 in number attacked, stabbed, kicked and punched the poor 15-year old Sofyen Belamouadden to death.
That is bad enough, but when I read the names of the perpetrators involved, I feel a sense of eerie familiarity as Junior Bayode, Obi Nwokeh, Christopher Omoregie, Samsom  Odegbune, Femi Oderinwale and Victoria Osoteku all appear to have Nigerian surnames.
They have some Nigerian connection
That is not to say that these people are Nigerian, but one can safely assume they have some connection with Nigeria by reason of parentage and possibly heritage.
The other two might well have Nigerian connections but that is not evident from their names. What bothers me is what the parents and guardians of these kids might have been up to that their wards have ended up on the extreme side of the law having congregated with impunity in the mob act of killing someone else in plain view.
I appreciate that these kids might never have visited Nigeria or experienced what many might call a traditional Nigerian upbringing that gives the parent licence to brutalise their wards in what we broadly call discipline but discipline in and of itself cannot just be corporal punishment – we need to adapt the tools of affirmation and chastisement to the societies we find ourselves in.
Adapting parenting influence
Whereas in Nigeria it is probably enough to dispatch parental responsibility by just being a provider of shelter, food, education and basic welfare, the differences in societal values and expectations mean that parents have to be more involved in attending to the emotional needs of their wards and this is something many might not have found examples of in their own upbringing.
I dare say, where ethnic minorities fail to integrate congregating in conurbations of ghettoised indifference, they shirk in the fundamental responsibility of understanding the pressures their wards face and the society in which they wards are growing – religion and social events amongst ourselves are not enough, we cannot recreate our local villages abroad and hope that it will suffice – it does not.
Just because we cannot bring our kids up the “Nigerian” way does not absolve us of our responsibility in society to bring our kids to respect the rule of law, the dignity of labour and the earning of respect through purposeful activity rather than menace – gangs are fundamentally antithetical to this thinking and one can say it arises because parents are absent from what they are supposed to be doing.
Misguided parental goals
Over the last few years, I have found too many instances where kids of Nigerian heritage have been victims or perpetrators of violent crime, if we must have children in foreign societies it behoves us to exert ourselves to bring them up in environments where they are first not under threat and then not influenced by negative role models.
The preoccupation with keeping up appearances and status in our marooned Diaspora communities when the greater task of separation and integration is of essence for the sake of our children is atrocious – children are better inspired and encouraged by aspirational guardians who provide positive role models that their wards can emulate.
A parenting challenge
It is all too easy to suggest children have become wayward and are the black sheep of the family but if their formative years were spent under a responsible adult’s care and hopefully guidance, then that is probably where things also went wrong – what children end up becoming does not occur in a vacuum.
Looking at those 6 Nigerian names, should be a warning shot across the bows of ethnic parenthood in foreign lands that your involvement is pertinent, that the game plan for child rearing cannot follow the script we once had or experienced back at home and that we cannot spend all hours in the pursuit of filthy lucre if we want the peace of children who will in future go on to live successful, independent lives away from unsavoury encounters with the law and the shame that it brings.

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