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Balram – The Criminal Entrepreneur

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Book Review

Title: The White Tiger

Author: Aravind Adiga

Reviewer: Joy Isi Bewaji

 

It is a mystery how these things happen. A heedless messenger gets certain documents misplaced from the office of the Premier of China- and it makes its way to some obscure country called Nigeria. Before you know it the press gets a whiff of it and the story of an Indian murderer-cum-entrepreneur gets everyone talking.

The scarce-to-fortune tale is one that has been told in many colours. Here, we have Ogas killed by their maiguards for paltry sums – monies that can not buy them a house!

But your venture is quite impressive – 26 Toyota Qualises? You have done well. Your grand-mother would have been proud if she were alive; but of course you know her head must have been severed by now with a rusted blunt knife to pacify the bereaved family of your ex-boss. Kishan would have loved the chandelier right? But he must have been burnt with a douse of petrol since your “impressive” act. You know the stories better than I do. Here in my country, we do not end a generation for the sins of one villain. We show mercy to the guiltless.

Poverty has a way of turning an unpretentious mind into a brewing pit for monstrosity. I have seen it many times. Here, a couple of hooligans exhume dead bodies and gouge their eyes out; a few bundles of naira notes are exchanged for it. Some others go right ahead and blow the brains out of a victim in his apartment in a bid to obtain a portmanteau full of US dollars. They are armed robbers really; but you – you are an entrepreneur, aren’t you? There’s a deep meaning to your crime – the need to survive the Rooster Coop that ties you down to unbelievable penury. I understand. It’s funny how your act of bravery isn’t carried out regularly by dispirited servants all over India. Maybe they are strained with a conscience. But you, Balram, are a brave one. It takes a great amount of bravery after all, to stab a master severally with the serrated remainder of a Johnny Walker. And to think you remain unflinching; bravery indeed, laced with vindictiveness.

Your years in Laxmarghan must have been hell, or close to it like you described. We’ve got our hell holes here too. If you come to Nigeria, I could take you round the slums. We’ve got places where people live right on top shit water; the stink infects their children,. and one by one they die like flies. The children who manage to survive the contagion live “half-baked” lives, just like your life once was. They do a number of things – sell rat poison on the streets; cower at bus stops, like beaten dogs begging for money; become evil-eyed thugs demanding loose change from commercial vehicles; or get into the eye-gouging, tongue­ slashing, private part-slicing trade.

It is a shame you didn’t get to go on that scholarship offered casually by the school inspector. You were a smart child after all. He called you a “white tiger”, the rarest of animals that come along once in every generation. You would have ended up well as a lawyer or an engineer, or some fancy Indian professor in a UK university teaching “economics”. But you turned out an entrepreneur – a Johnny Walker-smashing, boss-killing entrepreneur.

You were dragged out of school and put to work at a tea shop to pay for the “groom price” for one of your sisters. The whole groom-price thingy always leaves me perplex; how does a woman pay to marry a man? It’s the other way round here. We suck the men dry and shove their wives to them. They start their first fight the night after when the excitement and the alcohol is gone. He pounces on her and vents his first shock of anger.

I agree Mr. Ashok was a weak ass for a man. He was a big baby with that mobile phone he punched every second (and by the way, who fed you that trash about mobile phones destroying the libido of a man-drying up his sperm? Ha!). But really, what was his offence? You were upset he called you “family” while you drove him around filling his glass of whiskey with one hand and driving through busy roads with another (I must say your roads are really good; you wouldn’t try that here, ghastly postholes line up like pit toilets waiting to consume you); massage his father’s feet’ and get to serve tea to his brother and wife? Is that his crime?

Is that not the life of a servant? To clean after the greasy, cheesy mess of his boss? His brother, the Mongoose was right  after all, you were not to be trusted. Oh, Ashok was indeed cowardly, because seconds before his death he sensed ­somewhere in his guts­ that you were about to do some despicable; kill him and steal his money. He was your prey, a convenient one. And now the past is gone with its stench of poverty. You, Balram, are the new face of entrepreneurship in your town. Family ties in India is persuasive; it’s the same here you know; parents play a big role in what a grown man’s career and family should look like; children are indebted to their parents for life! It is a good thing when the man has some money to build his parents and siblings a big house in the village, with borehole and a standby generator; but for a poor man who is maddened . by the requests of his family to the extent that he thinks of selling one of his children off, it is a bad thing.

Nigerians, too, are quite familiar with fraudulent politics. I am talking about dizzying amounts, millions of naira, exchanging hands everyday from one politician to the other; one camp to another. We are siblings on that account

Now that you have found your wealth. and the need to hobnob with Wen Jiabao, Premier of China, has your beak (you know what I mean) grown an inch longer? What has changed except that you sit below your much-loved chandelier and reward policemen for their treachery to the larger society.

Indeed, like you say, “1’m tomorrow”. You are the “tomorrow” of gluttonous adolescence seeking ungainly riches that swells the conscience to the depths of despair.

I wonder why you pick the Premier of China for this confession. He will be baffled, I’m sure, and may learn a thing or two from you looking over his shoulder to see what his butler is up to!

I sense you are looking for answers, even amidst your less than unrepentant utterances. The answers you will see tomorrow.

I do hope you are aware that your killer resides with you; not your conscience, that has been smeared  beyond redemption. Your killer is Dharam, your brother. You know he’ll grow bigger, get out of school and scheme your death. Be ready. I hope he uses something less hurting, like a gun, straight in the head – for your own good.

I’m sure Mr. Ashok is waiting for you, (heaven? Come on, he was on a mission to corrupt some politicians, remember?).

He’ll welcome you at the gates of hell and ask, “What was that ever for?”

 

Bewaji, the author of Eko Dialogues, lives in Lagos

 

Joy Isi Bewaji

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Checking Children Maltreatment

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Child maltreatment is a serious global health problem with life long consequences.
It is the abuse and neglect that occurs to children under 18years of age by a parent, care giver or another person in a custodial role, especially in the hands of a clergy, coach and teacher, that results in harm, potential harm or threat of harm to a child.
According to a report by World Health Organisation (WHO), nearly 3 in 4 children or 300 million children aged 2 to 4 years regularly suffer physical punishment or psychological violence at the hands of parents and caregivers. Also, one in 5 women and 1 in 13 men report having been sexually abused as a child aged 0 to 17 years.
Subsequently, 120 million girls and young women under 20 years of age have suffered some form of forced sexual contact.
Some consequences of child maltreatment include impaired lifelong physical and mental health, and the social and occupational outcomes can ultimately slow a country’s economic and social development.
The report further stated that child maltreatment is often hidden and only a fraction of child victims of maltreatment ever gets support from health professionals.
“A child who is abused is more likely to abuse others as an adult so that violence is passed down from one generation to the next. It is therefore critical to break this cycle of violence, and in so doing create positive multi-generational impacts.
Preventing child maltreatment before it starts is possible and requires a multisectoral approach.
Effective prevention approaches include supporting parents and teaching positive parenting skills, and enhancing laws to prohibit violent punishment.
Ongoing care of children and families can reduce the risk of maltreatment reoccurring and can minimise its consequences, the report stated.
The report explained that child maltreatment includes all types of physical or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, negligence and commercial or other exploitation, which results in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.
In spite of recent national surveys in several low- and middle-income countries, data from many countries are still lacking. However, current estimates vary widely depending on the country and the method of research used.
International studies reveal that nearly 3 in 4 children aged 2-4 years regularly suffer physical punishment or psychological violence at the hands of parents and caregivers, and 1 in 5 women and 1 in 13 men report having been sexually abused as a child.
Every year, there are an estimated 40 150 homicide deaths in children under 18 years of age, some of which are likely due to child maltreatment. This number almost certainly underestimates the true extent of the problem, since a significant proportion of deaths due to child maltreatment are incorrectly attributed to falls, burns, drowning and other causes.
In armed conflict and refugee settings, girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence, exploitation and abuse by combatants, security forces, members of their communities, aid workers and others.
These injuries include, head injuries and severe disability, in particular in young children; post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV. Adolescent girls may face additional health issues, including gynaecological disorders and unwanted pregnancy. Also affect cognitive and academic performance and is strongly associated with alcohol and drug abuse and smoking – key risk factors for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
It is important to emphasize that children are the victims and are never to blame for maltreatment.
However,to maximize the effects of prevention and care, WHO recommends that interventions are delivered as part of a four-step public health approach: defining the problem; identifying causes and risk factors; then, designing and testing interventions aimed at minimizing the risk factors; disseminating information about the effectiveness of interventions and increasing the scale of proven effective interventions.
Meanwhile, in another research, medically reviewed recently in 2022, a medical doctor of the State University of New York Medical University, Alicia Perkarsky said that causes of child maltreatment are varied.
Abuse and neglect are often associated with physical injuries, delayed growth and development, and mental health issues. She stated that, diagnosis is based on history, physical examination, and sometimes laboratory tests and diagnostic imaging. Management of the issue includes documentation and treatment of any injuries and physical and mental health conditions, mandatory reporting to appropriate government agencies, and sometimes hospitalization and/or foster care to keep the child safe.
Perkarsy stated that in 2020, 3.9 million reports of alleged child maltreatment were made to Child Protective Services (CPS) in the US involving 7.1 million children. About 2.1 million of these reports were investigated in detail, and about 618,000 maltreated children were identified . Maltreatment rates were higher among girls (8.9 per 1000 girls) than boys (7.9 per 1000 boys). The younger the child is, the higher the rate of victimization (about 29% were age 2 or younger).
Also, about two thirds of all reports to Child Protective Services were made by professionals who are mandated to report maltreatment (educators, law enforcement personnel, social services personnel, legal professionals, day care providers, medical or mental health personnel, foster care providers).
“Of substantiated cases in the US in 2020, 76.1% involved neglect (including medical neglect), 16.5% involved physical abuse, 9.4% involved sexual abuse, and 0.2% involved sex trafficking. Many children were victims of multiple types of maltreatment.
“About 1750 children died in the US of maltreatment in 2020, about half of whom were 1 year old. About 73% of these children were victims of neglect and 43% were victims of physical abuse with or without other forms of maltreatment. About 80% of perpetrators were parents acting alone or with other individuals .
“Potential perpetrators of child maltreatment are defined slightly differently in different US states, but, in general, to legally be considered abuse, actions must be done by a person responsible for the child’s welfare. Thus, parents and other relatives, people living in the child’s home who have occasional responsibility, teachers, bus drivers, counselors, and so forth may be perpetrators. People who commit violence against children who they have no connection to or responsibility for ( as in school shootings) are guilty of assault, murder, and so forth but legally are not committing child abuse”,she stated.
Here, in Nigeria, in a recent study by a researcher, Chiluba Edo of the Golden Gate University, School of Law noted that, child abuse and neglect is prevalent in the everyday life of a child but it receives little or no attention by the society. This is as a result of the emphasis placed on the more prevalent childhood problems of malnutrition and infection. The study observed that another possible reason is the general assumption that in every African society the extended family system always provides love, care and protection to all children. Yet, there are traditional child rearing practices which adversely affect a child. With the alteration of society by rapid socioeconomic and political changes, various forms of child abuse have been identified and have been considered the outcome of abnormal interactions between the child, parents/guardians and society. These, the study noted include abandonment of normal infants by unmarried or very poor mothers in cities, increased child labour and exploitation of children from rural areas in urban elite families, and abuse of children in urban nuclear families by childminders. Preventive measures include provision of infrastructural facilities and employment opportunities in the rural areas in order to prevent drift of the young population to the cities. This would sustain the supportive role of the extended family system which is rapidly being eroded. There is also need for greater awareness of the existence of child abuse in the community by health and social workers.

By: Ibinabo Ogolo

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‘Why Adventurous Children Have Better Mental Health’

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A new research has observed that children who spend more time playing adventurously have lower symptoms of anxiety and depression and were happier over the first COVID-19 lockdown.
The study led by researchers in the University of Exeter and published in Child Psychiatry and Human Development in 2022 , comes at a time when today’s children have fewer opportunities for adventurous play out of sight of adults, such as climbing trees, riding bikes, jumping from high surfaces or playing somewhere they are out of adult sight. The study sought to test theories that adventurous play offers learning opportunities that help build resilience in children, thereby helping to prevent mental health problems.
The research team which was made up of Helen  Dodd, Rachel Nesbit and Lily FitzGibbon  surveyed nearly 2,500 parents of children aged 5-11 years. Parents completed questions  about their child’s play, their general mental health (pre COVID) and their mood during the first COVID -19.
The result was that, children who spend more time playing outside had fewer ‘’internalising problems ‘’, characterised as anxiety and depression. Those children were also more positive during the first lockdown.
The study also found out that the effect was more pronounced in children from lower income families than those growing up in higher income households.
Professor of Child Psychology at the University of Exeter, Helen Dodd, who led the study noted that, ‘’we are more concerned than ever about children’s mental health by ensuring they have plentiful opportunities for adventurous play. This is really positive because play is free, instinctive and rewarding for children, available for everyone and doesn’t require special skills. We now urgently need to invest in and protect natural space, well – designed parks and adventurous play grounds to support the mental health of our children,’’ she explained.
Also, Director of United Kingdom Impact At Save The Children, Dan Paskins, stated that “every child needs and deserves opportunities to play. This important research shows that this is even more vital to help children thrive after all they missed out on during the COVID -19 restrictions. More play means more happiness and less anxiety and depression.’’
Welcoming the findings, Chief Executive of Play Board  NI, Jacqueline O’Loughin, said,’’this research emphasises the importance of adventurous play.
Children and young people need freedom and opportunities to encounter challenge and risk in their everyday playful adventures. It is clear from the research findings that playing,taking risks and experiencing excitement outdoors make a positive contribution to children ‘s mental health and emotional well being. The reward of allowing children to self – regulate and manage challenge in their play are widespread and far- reaching.
Adventurous play helps children to build the resilience needed to cope with and manage stress in challenging circumstances,’’ she added.
Also, in a statement by United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), on how  play strengthens children’s mental  health, the body noted that, ‘’playful moments are essential in our little one’s emotional well being. Play is how young children learn and make sense of the  world around them. While they are having fun, they are working on critical parts of their development like building motor,cognitive,social and emotional skills. The power of play extends beyond early learning,it also plays a key role in building children’s mental health and parents too. Children who play regularly with their parents are less likely to develop anxiety, depression, aggression  and sleep problems,’’it stated.

By: Ibinabo Ogolo with Agency Report

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‘If I Become Leader Of Nigeria …’ 

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As a future leader of Nigeria,there are many things I can do to develop my country . There is a saying which says,”Before you can solve a problem,you have to first identify the problem “. So, there are numerous things I can do for the country to close the lengthened gaps in other to bring in advancement and development like in other countries.
The things I can do by God’s grace, will include ensuring that the lives and property of citizens are well secured and safe,therefore making sure that military,paramilitary personnel are well trained and for the job.
I will also make sure that our educational system is properly modernised and I will ensure that education is not expensive for the masses,making at least 95 percent of the people in the country to be educated.
Also, I would bring about economic stability and never give room for economic recession but improve the value of our currency (Naira). Monopoly of the economy will be removed by having both agriculture and crude oil in view.
I will also make sure that we have a stable and convenient political environment, ensuring that democracy is well practised in the nation, thereby eroding corruption and corruptionists during elections.
Another area, I will work on is transportation,to be safe for citizens,especially those that are trading (buying and selling ).
Other predominant things I will do is to ensure peaceful co- existence among people.  Everyone should be treated equally, whether rich or poor, there should be no room for injustice. Employment for youths and young adults should be key so that they can have a means of survival in society.  And also peace among ethnic groups and organi-sations.
All these and more are what I will do  if I become a leader of Nigeria.

By: Wisdom God’swork

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