Tayo Owosina, head counsellor at Mindful Edge Counselling, in this interview spoke to DAVID IJASEUN about the right time to introduce children into politics and its impacts. Owosina, who is also the founder of YALES Initiative, an NGO advocating for quality education in marginalised communities in Nigeria, noted that this topic is still under research. Excerpts:
Can you tell us about your experience as a Child & Adolescent Counsellor and your work in promoting quality education among young people in marginalised communities in Nigeria?
My journey in this profession has been deeply rewarding. We’ve mentored and counselled over 5,000 young people since 2017 through YALES Initiative and our holistic approach includes academic support and comprehensive guidance services, empowering young individuals to navigate life’s complexities and contribute to their communities.
As a young girl, I discovered a passion for making a difference through education. I also admired Wole Soyinka’s literal prowess and this inspired me to envision myself as a Nobel Laureate, creating words that were uniquely my own.
However, despite attending a prestigious school, I still felt unfulfilled and longed for an educational environment that embraced my talents. Unfortunately, no one recognized my uniqueness and guided me accordingly. No child in my care directly or indirectly should go through my experience! I resolved.
This frustration led me to start YALES Initiative and Mindful Edge Consulting International, a coaching counselling and training organisation to support young people in marginalised communities, startup founders, and families to unlock their fullest potential.
Also, I actively advocate for policy changes and increased investment in education, aiming to bridge educational gaps and create equal opportunities for all. I believe that together, we can empower young people and build a society where quality education is accessible to everyone.
In your opinion, when is the right age or stage for children to start learning about politics and getting actively involved in political issues?
The right age or stage for children to start learning about politics and getting actively involved in political issues is a subject of ongoing research and debate. While there is no universally agreed-upon age, several factors should be considered when determining an appropriate starting point.
Research suggests that children can begin developing a basic understanding of political concepts as early as preschool age. At this stage, age- appropriate discussions and activities can introduce them to concepts like fairness, decision-making, and community participation. However, it is important to emphasise that these early interactions should be focused on promoting civic values, rather than partisan politics.
As children progress through middle childhood and adolescence, their cognitive abilities and social awareness expand, making them more receptive to learning about complex political issues.
At this stage, schools can incorporate age-appropriate civic education programs into their curriculum, providing opportunities for students to explore political systems, rights and responsibilities, and ethical decision-making. Encouraging critical thinking, media literacy, and respectful debate can foster active citizenship and prepare them for future political engagement.
What are the potential benefits and challenges of getting children actively involved in politics at a young age?
Children who participate in political activities may develop a better understanding of democratic processes, the importance of voting, and the power of their voice in shaping society. It can boost their confidence and self-efficacy, encouraging them to take action and contribute to positive change.
On the other hand, the potential challenges include the age-appropriate understanding of political issues which can be complex and require a certain level of maturity and cognitive development to comprehend fully.
Ensuring age-appropriate information and discussions is crucial to prevent overwhelming children with concepts beyond their grasp. In conclusion, actively involving children in politics at a young age can have potential benefits in terms of civic awareness, empowerment, critical thinking, and empathy. However, it is crucial to address challenges related to age-appropriate understanding, influence and bias, emotional well-being, and maintaining a healthy balance in children’s lives.
What strategies do you recommend to introduce political education to children and adolescents in marginalised communities?
We need to start developing an inclusive and culturally sensitive curriculum that incorporates political education and ensures that materials represent diverse voices, perspectives, and experiences, reflecting the unique context of marginalized communities. This helps children and adolescents see themselves in the learning process and fosters a sense of belonging.
Also, collaborating with community organizations, local leaders, and families to create opportunities for children and adolescents to engage with real-life political processes. This could involve organizing visits to local government offices, inviting guest speakers, or facilitating discussions on community issues and decision-making.
We can also empower young people in marginalized communities to lead their own initiatives related to political education. Encourage them to form youth councils, organize forums, and engage in community campaigns that address local political issues. This promotes ownership, leadership skills, and active citizenship.
How can involvement in politics contribute to the overall personal and social development of young individuals?
Developing Critical Thinking and Decision-Making Skills: Politics requires analyzing complex issues, evaluating evidence, and making informed decisions. By engaging in political activities, young individuals develop critical thinking skills, learn to weigh different perspectives, and make reasoned judgments.
These skills are valuable in various aspects of life, including academics, career, and personal relationships. We should also encourage civic responsibility and active citizenship. Involvement in politics nurtures a sense of civic responsibility and active citizenship.
Young individuals learn about their rights, responsibilities, and the importance of participating in democratic processes. This fosters a commitment to making a positive impact on society, encouraging them to engage in community service, volunteerism, and advocacy for causes they believe in.
How can parents and educators support and guide children who show an interest in politics?
We can create a safe and inclusive environment where children feel comfortable expressing their political interests and opinions. Encourage open discussions at home or in the classroom, allowing them to explore different viewpoints and ask questions.
Actively listen to their thoughts and engage in respectful conversations to foster their understanding. Also through providing Age-Appropriate Resources. We can offer age-appropriate books, articles, documentaries, and online resources that explain political concepts in a clear and accessible manner.
These resources can help children expand their knowledge, develop critical thinking skills, and gain a deeper understanding of political processes and institutions.
Furthermore, adults should assume the role of Model Active Citizenship by serving as positive role models by demonstrating active citizenship. Engage in community activities, participate in local elections, and demonstrate the importance of being informed and involved in political issues. By observing your actions, children can learn the value of civic responsibility and the impact of individual participation.
Are there specific guidelines or recommendations regarding the level of involvement children should have in politics to ensure their well-being and safety?
We need to consider the child’s age and maturity level when determining their level of involvement in politics. Younger children may start with basic concepts and discussions, while older children can engage in more complex topics and activities.
Parents should also closely supervise and guide their children’s political involvement. Stay informed about their activities, monitor their online interactions, and ensure they have access to accurate and age-appropriate information.
Also, when we recognize and respect each child’s boundaries and comfort levels it also goes a long way to assure than of their rights and civic obligations. Some children may prefer a more behind-the-scenes role, while others may be interested in public activism. Allow them to make choices based on their individual personalities and preferences.
Keep a close eye on children’s emotional well-being throughout their political involvement. Encourage open communication, provide a safe space for expressing their feelings, and be attentive to signs of stress or burnout. Ensure they have a healthy balance between their political activities and other aspects of their lives.
Remember, the well-being and safety of children should always be the top priority. By following these recommendations and adapting them to each child’s unique needs, parents, educators, and communities can support children in their political journey while ensuring their overall well-being.
Bullying is one trauma that some young individuals find hard to heal from. What are practicable solutions to bullying young individuals/children experience?
Bullying is a harmful event that can lead to trauma if left unaddressed. It has detrimental effects on the mental health, emotional well-being, academic performance, and recovery from trauma for young individuals.
Unfortunately, many schools only take action when the situation becomes severe, but early intervention is key to preventing tragic outcomes. The recent tragic case of Sylvester May serves as a heartbreaking reminder of the urgency to address bullying and its potential consequences.
Addressing the psychological impact of bullying requires accessible and comprehensive support systems. Schools should invest in mental health services, including counselling and therapy, to provide victims with the necessary emotional support.
This is where we come in as Mindful Edge Consulting. Trained professionals can help individuals process their experiences, develop coping mechanisms, and rebuild their self-esteem. It is crucial to involve parents, guardians, and families in these efforts, as their support and engagement are instrumental in the healing process.