• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Formative years of a child is important, don’t waste it


I was nine years old when I arrived boarding school at the prestigious boarding secondary school for girls, Queen of Apostles College Kaduna run by white Reverend Sisters of the catholic mission. It was later to become Queen Amina College when the state government took it over a couple of years after I enrolled. I was young but ready to be independent even at that time. Thing is, my parents were only an hour away in Zaria and could come over to the school quickly even in an emergency.

In addition to everything else as will be captured in my upcoming memoir, “So, you want to be an MC, Tales and Tips of a veteran event compere”, my elder sister, and the lovely Eucharia Alozie two years older than me was also in the school at the time. So, not only was I not too far from home but I also had a support system in school and was really well covered. Those years were fun and unforgettable and I remember them almost as if it were yesterday.

My Father, an Educationist did not think it wise that I go to secondary school that early but I had passed the entrance exam and it was a trial. In the end, my primary school principal, the late Mrs Jarma, encouraged my parents to let me give it a shot since my sister would be there and if I did not do well could then repeat the class. I considered it a challenge and went all the way through secondary school with very little distractions.

Watch it. Let the kid grow in a more organic way so you do not inherit an emotional wreck going forward. We need to spend time with our children in their formative years. Be their friend. Please weigh your options!

But the world has changed and many things therein. The distractions are now more enormous and some of the kids are in school more for the competition than anything else. We have pushier parents who want their kids to get into universities early to prove to their neighbours that there are geniuses in their families. Everything is now really more difficult, the images the kids have to deal with every week from television, to internet to bill boards to newspapers and magazines are insane. I only had black and white Television that closed at 10pm, a couple of newspapers and the radio. There was no Pay TV, no other channels other than NTA, no internet and no 24-hour TV.

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We are in a different time now and a different world. I was vulnerable and naïve at nine, but today’s nine year olds with a lot more technological support are smarter than me but they are way more vulnerable and less wise. They are also very sensitive and over process everything you say to them. And everything that happens to them. Too much TV and too much internet. I, on the other hand, was a smart nine-year-old with little cares in the world other than my books, my friends, new songs and a few TV programmes like Hawaii five o and Modsquad. I was not watching reality shows and listened to my father’s music machine to musicians, Ofege in Lagos and Jim reeves and Diana Ross whose music came from faraway lands. Nudity was not yet a thing and decent dressing was all the rave.

Anyone showing a flash of skin or always talking to boys was considered a bad girl. The reverend sisters taught us moral codes and we stayed within bounds. Today’s nine year olds need to be more grounded at home before they go off to secondary school especially boarding. Their emotions have to be managed and they need to be taught how to deal with significant others outside the home.

However, if they do go to boarding school that young, a gap year is appropriate, to help them recover before they move on to the university. In my case I spent two years for A-level at the Murtala Mohammed College of Arts and Science Makurdi which allowed me to mature before university. So I was hitting university as I was turning 17 years. Today, I meet Nigerian parents who are rushing their children through life, dropping them in universities at 14 and 15 years. Sorry guys, from a psychological point of view, it’s not wise. Some pick up and run with it but most are unable to rise and burn out very quickly. The academics are overwhelming and the social side of things are too heavy and confusing. It is always better for the child to be able to deal with complex issues and take decisions on their own. And if they do not possess that capacity because you either did not spend enough time with them as parents or they are just too young to process these issues, then they get into trouble. This bothers me a lot so much so that I am setting up a boot camp next September God willing for kids preparing to go to the university. They are either too confused or too young. Let’s see if we can make an intervention.

Going to boarding school is generally a very emotional thing for most kids going to secondary school. If the child is too young, it’s doubly so. At nine, I had some support and coped well although I had to double down with working extra hard on some subjects and I also grew up very fast. But can you imagine a nine-year-old in a boarding school away from their county and family and friends? Among total strangers, kids tend to re-enter themselves, become quieter and are generally not coping. Then they encounter bullying, racism and abuse. There is a strange land where there is no one to talk to.

Watch it. Let the kid grow in a more organic way so you do not inherit an emotional wreck going forward. We need to spend time with our children in their formative years. Be their friend. Please weigh your options!