Tuesday 20 November 2012

Tough Parenting Truths Living in the UK

Nigerians in contrast
I attended a church function on Saturday where they were celebrating their fifth year anniversary and they had laid out a three-day event to commemorate the occasion. Having lived in the Netherlands for 12 years and now in the UK with the fact that I attended a very international church where the communication was bilingual, this setting was a bit unfamiliar to me.
I sometimes find myself in amazingly contrasting worlds and none could have been as stark as the Buddhist funeral I attended on Friday and this Pentecostal Christian event I was attending on Saturday.
Our affinities
My presence was by reason of my gracious hosts in the UK and by far my closest family in Europe, they are quite involved in the close-knit community of the church where, for the affinities of extended relations, my nephew and my niece are members of the choir apart from him being an accomplished artiste in his own right.
As we dispensed with the formalities of genuflection and greetings with every Nigerian attention to pomp, ceremony and pageantry, we were told the session would be a seminar on ‘Parenting’ and the main speakers were to be a judge and a social worker.
The judge - Justice Ola Omotosho was, I was informed, the first Judge of Nigerian descent appointed to the bench in the UK.
Views from the bench
Justice Ola Omotosho gave us an interesting perspective of life on the bench and the kinds of cases she has to deal with, along with the sympathies of being an ethnic minority with the duty of interpreting the laws that appear to change too frequently for anyone to keep up with.
However, addressing more pertinent matters, she clarified that having the status of “Indefinite Leave to Remain” in the UK does not confer British citizenship rights that when such persons enter the crime and punishment system, the presumption is to deal with them as foreign nationals and the status will be withdrawn in favour of deportation.
She also explained that whilst there might be extenuating circumstances in terms of the length of stay in the UK mitigating the appeal of a deportation order, however, these situations are rare and are dealt with on an individual basis.
The fallacy of proxy marriages
Being of Nigerian heritage, it is understandable that her fellow judges would seek her opinion on certain issues that they might not fully understand by reason of cultural, traditional or religious differences and they can expect that, as a judge, she will be forthright, honest and frank with her views.
One area she suggested is turning into a scam is the issue of proxy marriages, where the families and relations of the partners in the marriage gather in foreign lands to conduct the supposed marriage ceremony whilst lawyers in the UK print out certificates meant to facilitate the immigration regularisation process.
She said lawyers come up with tall tales to presumably help desperate people who easily part with their money and still end up with no solutions. The system eventually gets wise about all these tricks, the moment the numbers indicate something is amiss.
The plight of stateless children
Then she talked about the issue of stateless children who would have arrived in the UK as young kids and although their parents might have all the legal statuses to remain in the UK, the residence status of their children is left unresolved.
The problems emerge when, sadly, the child encounters the law or ructions in the family lead to the child being kicked out of their home. Without the necessary papers that give them a legal status in the UK, such children get caught in a legal status limbo where they can get no help and risk avoidable deportation.
Basically, she was saying above all else, confirming the status of your children should be of the highest priority at the earliest opportunity.
From discipline to abuse to jail
Then she touched on the matter of abuse and the fact that children have rights that are protected and defended by the state. Abusive parents who run afoul of the law will almost certainly go to jail and that the law was not partial to the idea that the purpose of discipline that became abuse was to preserve the family unit.
One last point she made was about spousal abuse, as far as she was concerned, regardless of being Christian, she had no sympathy for any circumstances of domestic violence and her candid advice was for the abused to get out of that relationship. By implication, there was nothing godly about a marriage where there was no mutual respect and the presence of abuse.
The right to well-being of a child
The Social Worker who is also a pastor addressed the matter of abuse defining it as anything that impacts on the well-being of a child and that included physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and abdication of parental responsibility.
She was at pains to suggest that the authorities will get involved and investigate all claims, as the judge said earlier; no one wants a Baby P scenario on their hands again.
Unlike in Nigeria, a child's word has equal weight as that of an adult before the law and lying will not help the situation because the authorities will seek to determine root causes.
Provision is not love
I found the seminar quite refreshing and to hear establishment figures of Nigerian heritage be so forthright was quite a first for me.
The Social Worker stressed the need for parental involvement in all aspects of the child's development and most of all having a reward system as part of the discipline mix and that parents need to show more love to their children.
I would have liked for the issue of love to be dealt with better, especially clarifying that provision is not love. The provision of shelter, food, clothing, education, parental care and protection to the child are responsibilities the society expects of the parent or guardian towards their wards but these are outward expressions that do not necessarily fulfil a child’s need for love which is an emotional investment on the part of the parent.
Integrate or face disintegration
The subtext of the seminar was not lost on me, the tendency for ethnic minorities not to integrate and understand their host societies along with the differences between customs and laws leaves many learning very hard lessons that reach into the wider community.
There is no doubt that the pastors at the church wanted to speak to a particular demographic either directly or indirectly as the judge was even gracious enough to suggest that most of her advice might not pertain to the audience attending but to our friends.
Having heard what was shared at the seminar the more apt title of the seminar would have in my view been ‘Tough Parenting Truths Living in the UK.’
Acknowledgement: This is the first blog that I have engaged a ‘sub-editor’ to review before posting. He annotated the blog, made punctuation and spelling corrections whilst advising me to refine certain paragraphs for clarity and concision.
In view of that, I thank Mike Sutton for taking the time to review this piece and making it better than I could have attempted a few times over.

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