The present morass as being witnessed today in our youths is nothing compared to what will happen in the future if the decaying trends are not halted. What with the militancy, terrorism, prostitution, cultism, kidnapping, armed robbery, examination malpractices, yahoo-yahoo, thuggery, rich at all cost syndromes, to mention but a few. The list is endless. Yet, we ain’t seen anything yet as Americans would say.
The pressures and expectations on these young ones are just beyond description. Generally, we, the older ones, have not treated our children and youths well. Instead, we harass them at every turn. We treat them badly and terrorise them. No wonder they are paying us back hard.
Just look at what we are doing to them even from very early childhood. The average two-year-old has started going to “school”. We wake them up at 5.30am despite their great protestation because we must prepare them for school. The child will cry and taunt and protest that he still wants to sleep, but the parents, who indignantly feel they are doing their duty, turn deaf ears and blind eyes to the protests. The harassment has started and it goes on for life from that very tender and very vulnerable and helpless age. The child may not see the parents again till late in the evening when the parents return home from their daily economic activities.
The child is rushed through the pre-nursery, nursery and then primary school. The reasonably more intelligent ones amongst them finish primary school at 8-9 years, then off to secondary school, most times in a boarding arrangement. Meanwhile, their brains and bodies are still so immature to handle the challenges in their present stations; but who cares? Sometimes, their poor brains and bodies succumb to the pressure and they contrive dubious means to meet up with the challenges. Yet, the parents are gloating: “I am going for school runs”; “my child is in the college, she is only nine-o, she is really brilliant.,” “my son became a medical doctor at 20 years!” The boasts! The massaging of egos!
Meanwhile, the children are becoming excessively neurotic, if not psychotic already. Double tragedy! Sometimes, they join other like minds or are persuaded, and end up in crime. Even the ones that manage to break through academically are frustrated by unemployment and hunger in the land.
These things we are doing to our children are increasing by the day. There seems to be a conspiracy between parents and educators/government. Sometimes, parents teach these children crime by writing or arranging people that will write exams for them, as well as bribing educators and invigilators to get the best results for their children.
At the end, we produce youths who may not be able to write their names or make correct sentences. We are paying so much to produce much stupidity.
Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, once said that his generation was a wasted one. More recently, the former governor of Kano State and former Minister of Education, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, also seemed to agree with this assertion when he said inter alia that “… the tendency of our leaders to dedicate all their attention to physical developments alone over the years, disregarding efforts at attitudinal change has left us with wider roads, but narrower view points; more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment…”
The past generations were better prepared at a more calculated pace than what we are witnessing presently. Yet, they failed. The question now is, is there any hope for the future, seeing that the present indices are worse? Why then the rush to send our children to school at such tender age? Why stressing these children? To me, it is a violence against children in the name of education and the repercussions will be grave in the future. Children must be allowed to mature properly for early education and must be allowed to proceed in a progressive manner at their own pace. Children should sleep well, play well, study well and subsequently do well and behave well as youths.
The second thing we must address very urgently concerning our children and youths if we must halt the degeneration and slide into perdition is hunger. Our youths are hungry; in the school, on the streets, in orphanages, prisons, homes, IDP camps, etc. And yet, there is so much wastage of food in many homes, especially in rich homes. This, to me, is sheer wickedness. The hunger in the land is not only due to low production, but more so due to wastage by the so-called big men and women in the society. Almost all of us are guilty. But we must change our attitude by helping the needy and the have-nots.
The third problem we must address is moral degeneration. There must be a spiritual revival of our youths and a lot of mentoring in righteousness and godliness. Godly parents and leaders must not be intimidated into resignation but must rather be aroused into deliberate and strategic recapture of the youth and society for God.
In summary, there is a great need for sound minds, sound bodies and good behaviour in our society. And these can only be achieved through appropriate and proper education and mentoring of our children and youths.
Dr Ezeonwumelu, a medical practitioner, lives in Port Harcourt.