Thursday, 16 February 2017

Ifunanya; the plague of an African child.


Our house is a fairly big duplex on a wide Acre so it was easy for my parents to always accommodate my relatives for holidays and sometimes unplanned visits. On one of these occasions my cousin Agbonma visited us for the first time and she spent almost two weeks with my family. Agbonma is a very hardworking girl and sometimes she would do the chores meant for me and my siblings as if in a way she's trying to pay us for our room she shared or to compensate us for the food she ate daily. Her English were not feathery like mine but her Igbo was more fluent than mine and she speaks it like one of the early people. It was as if she owned the language and I would often tease her about exchanging my English and French for her fluent Igbo Language. A day before she left, she called me and my siblings and told us that she noticed we don't have 'respect' for our parents; in the way we say 'good morning dad' instead of good morning sir, the way we say 'yes mummy' instead of ma or yes ma and the way we chat and argue with our parents as if there are our mates and all these she said with pitiful nods. 'Biko have small fear for your parents' she said and later myself and my siblings would laugh over the whole thing. I didn't see any sense in what Agbonma said until few years later when I started visiting friends and I noticed that most parent-child relationships were built on 'fear'.
The anecdote above is not an ode to my parents for 'good parenting' but it's a discovery and realisation of what it means to be a child in an African home. Agbonma was a product of a typical Nigerian home and in many ways I have come to realise that my early childhood can be regarded as ideal but Agbonma's own is close to the reality. Most parents teach their children fear instead of respect and so children grew up to fear their parents instead of respecting them.My friend Kamsi has a wealthy father but when it was time for him to go to secondary school his father sent him to an substandard secondary school in a remote village so he had to trek hundreds of miles to get to school. His father has this conventional idea( also common with other parents ) that for a child to be Successful he has to undergo stress and must not feel comfortable in his father's wealth otherwise the child will become lazy and spoilt the same way children were forbidden to eat meat & egg in the olden days because they believe that the child will develop sweet tooth one day and start stealing. But all these are fallacies and it really baffles me because I believe children needs more meat and fish and eggs more than Adults because they are growing. A child needs love and care and we shouldn't think that in a way if we deprive them of love and care they will become somehow strong, it doesn't work like that. Allow your children to
call you mummy and daddy or papa and mama but not 'sir' or 'ma' because they are not your employees; they are your children.
Treat children like they are children and please don't deprive them of their childhood, it only comes once in a lifetime. Don't pretend that someone they are Adults because they are not. Listen to Children's Opinion always because they are alot more perceptive and intelligent than we give them credit for. If you give a child rice and he refuses to eat give him beans and if he refuses the beans and asked for sugar, put a cube of sugar in his tea but don't give him a packet of sugar. The logic here is that you have to listen to Children's Opinion and guide them in decision making because they will often fail in making good decision but you have to guide them. Educate them about sex from a very young age and don't say that you're not ready to 'corrupt' their innocent minds because it will surprise you the little they already know about their sexuality. Be the one to answer their curiosity Questions and don't wait for them to learn it formally in school or in television or from neighbours because in the process while you wait they might be misled into negative vices. Call the sexual organs their name and don't give them slang name just the way my little nephew was referring to his pennis as 'pipi' or 'thing'. Don't call vagina 'ike', it's not ike and calling it ike will make a child confused and she starts calling her vagina and her buttocks 'ike'. Ike is an Igbo word for buttocks not vagina.Teach both males and females that they are sexual beings and so they would one day grow up to have sexual feelings because they are not woods.
Ifunanya is the Igbo word for Love and it's literal translation is 'to see'. We have to start loving in the Igbo way; we have to start seeing and for you to see properly you have to take off every 'glass' of privilege from your eyes. My white friend Kyle once told me that the plague of every African child was Love; he said the African parents hardly say 'I love you' to their children and I will always disagree with him. Oh yes African parents don't 'love' in a superficial way by saying 'I love you' but they do so in action, they 'see' to our needs and the last time my parents told me they love me was two weeks ago when they called me and said 'we just got you a new laptop'. In those words all I see is Ifunanya.
Daalu.