Sylvester Oromoni: The cost of ‘missing’ parenting.

The death of a young lad Sylvester Oromoni, a 12-year student of Dowen College, Lekki, Lagos, is a sad reality. The viral video displaying his final moments has generated reactions from Nigerians and individuals all over the world, but certain underlying issues remain unclear. As we await the full report of the investigation from the security authorities, certain issues call for discussion. Everyone clamours for justice to unravel the circumstances that led to such avoidable death, to ensure the perpetrators are brought to book and take responsibility for their actions, but then, are we all free from what we seek justice for?

Some social commentators have blamed bad parenting for the sad event while others have cast aspersions on the school management over its insensitivity and nonchalant attitude as the major reason for the death, while denying he died as a result of being bullied by his fellow students. There are rising calls for justice, but we need to re-evaluate ourselves, whether as parents, guardians or whatever social status we occupy. Our children, domestic staff or workers under our care or supervision are being bullied, maybe not to the point of death yet, or in the form of verbal bullying, psychological or even sexually bullied. The difference is simply that we haven’t taken note of it, we are insensitive, too busy or we have turned blind eyes to it.

Family, the smallest unit of the society, is supposed to be a breeding ground for children with a sound moral, religious and good value system. The first point of education is to prepare them to face society. This responsibility remains the core purpose of every parent. Sadly, this sole purpose has been “missing” or “transferred” to individuals unfit to perform those duties. Children have been left at the mercy of domestic staff, relatives, teachers who have their own responsibilities too, and the society to perform these duties. Parents are “too busy” chasing wealth, career, fame, academics and other “important” priorities, over proper parenting of their children. Money has to be made, this has been the slogan! At least to take care of basic needs, family and even pay children’s school fees. When this happens, something has to suffer; the morals and values of the children will suffer dearly. Schools, especially those that are privately-owned with capitalist tendencies of profit-making, are left to perform the duties of parenting under the disguise that huge tuition fees are paid by these parents. The money paid is expected to take care of the parenting gap and produce morally sound children in any way possible.

Read also: Bullying at Dowen? Waiting for the truth

This missing link has plunged our modern society into a moral mess. One that will require every parent to go back and take up their primary responsibility. The sad part is that this mirage-chasing parent got the best or at least better upbringing from their parents as kids growing up. They now deny their children or wards the privileges, attention and care they fully enjoyed as kids. The cost of this “missing” parenting is costing not just the immediate families, but they are gradually having a multiplier effect on the society. There are several other social vices like drug abuse, sexual and gender-based violence, rape, cybercrime, examination malpractice and others traceable to poor parenting and they are costing the society a great danger. Wealth accumulated and fame could be damaged, squandered, or lost if children imbibe the wrong training when left at the mercy of the society or unfit individuals.

Schools, whether private or government-owned, must rise up to the occasion and take responsibility for certain issues arising in the 21st-century learning environment. Bullying, sexual harassment, peer pressure, cultism, physical and psychological violence and other teenage exuberance must be addressed. There exist in many schools, high cases of these issues but they are either swept under the carpet or are yet to be brought to public knowledge. The government’s neglect of education in Nigeria gave rise to the private-sector-led education sector that has given access to unlicensed entry of quacks and unqualified schools, mostly at primary and secondary levels.

The responsibility of a sound parent must not be left alone to schools, domestic staff or relatives. We acknowledge the need for financial comfort, sustainable income and attainment of personal aspirations, but there must be a balance with parenting. Both must be managed appropriately to ensure that none suffers neglect. While we hope that such avoidable damages never occur any longer, we must look inwards to be sure we and our families are neither victims nor perpetrators of these social problems. Like the popular saying, nobody is too busy, it depends on one’s priority. Sound parenting must be a priority, as the cost of neglect is grievous to the family and society.

Alikor Victor is a health & development economist

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