Recently, my wife and I went on a tour of various schools to enable us decide which one would be suitable for our daughter when she turns 2 in October. I imagine you're wondering if a 2 year old isn't a bit too young to start school, but if you knew the increasing number of ways in which she manipulates and plays tricks on us, you wouldn't argue even if we were to enroll her in school tomorrow. We drafted a checklist consisting of the following things to consider in choosing a school:
2. Location of the school in relation to the distance from our home.
3. Quality of the school and the teachers.
Then the world awoke to the Buni Yadi massacre and most recently the Chibok abduction. Going to school instantly topped the list of life threatening activities in Nigeria. A few days later a false alarm about a possible abduction triggered a panic in Abuja, as parents scurried to schools all over the city to pick up their kids. Suddenly our checklist evolved into something out of a spy manual as we tinkered around with the idea of including other things such as an emergency extraction plan, GPS tracker, RFID transmitter, hourly surveillance and calls to the school every thirty minutes. We began to wonder if we were not going overboard with our paranoia as it was starting to look a lot like we were making plans to send her to North Korea for intelligence gathering and a lot less like a school enrollment. It sounds crazy, I know. I guess you could say these are consequences of living in a constant unpredictable state of insecurity.
It is now common to see parents drop off their children at school in the morning with palpable fear in their eyes, their hearts in their mouths and a constant prayer on their lips as they anxiously await the end of the school day to rush in and return their precious gems to the safety of their homes. As for parents whose kids are in boarding school, I salute their bravery. It is impossible to imagine the kind of apprehension and fear they go to bed with every night, as it takes an unquantifiable amount of strength to send your kids to boarding school in these dangerous times.
Under normal circumstances, going to school in Nigeria these days is a high stress activity, depending on whether its a public or private school. With the exception of private schools, there aren't any bus services for public schools. The buildings in some schools are in a state of total disrepair, hence students take lessons out in the open. In addition to all these issues, when you toss abductions and killings into the mix, going to school takes a whole new dimension. Aside from the hassle of a tedious transportation system, dilapidated buildings and deficiency in teaching staff, kids have to deal with the fear of unknown assailants! Good God! That is just too much for a child to bear.
During my primary school days, the morning drop offs and daily school sessions were devoid of stress and were mostly uneventful. Except for the Lagos traffic, the trip to and from school was mundane and taken for granted. There weren't any life threatening or scary moments, except the rare bouts of corporal punishment for failing to complete my homework and the impromptu run-ins with the class bully. Although, in fairness to the bully, the run-ins weren't always impromptu. I recall he was usually courteous enough to put me on at least a day's notice that he was going to bash my face in. If I had to face the added challenge of looking out for gun and machete wielding terrorists, I would've probably dropped out.
A lot of things in life are based on personal decisions. From trivial matters like the colour of the shirt one wants to wear to work to leisurely matters like what football team one wants to support. Even a very serious issue such as a genuine unwavering belief in God is a personal decision. Despite what you may portray to the outside world, deep down in your heart your faith or absence of it is ultimately a matter between you and your creator. Giving our kids an education is a serious issue based on a personal choice which no one should be coerced into doing or refraining from. Though for someone who doesn't believe in giving his children an education, I feel an acceptable and rational means of persuasion should be employed in convincing him to do so. Ultimately, the decision is his to make.
For he who wants to send his kids to school, he should be free to do so. For he who considers western education an abomination, he should be free to reject it. I'm sure we can all coexist and get along.
Coming from a family where education is said to be our stock in trade, a society devoid of education is one I don't even want to imagine as I have the fear it could collapse into a state of affairs where as Thomas Hobbes put it "life would be brutish, nasty and short." All that I am, all that I have I owe to God, my family and the opportunity I had to get a good education. If I fail to give my daughter a good/better education than I had, then I would've failed in my duties as a father completely. I'm sure most parents share the same opinion.
It is incomprehensible to fathom how we can be expected to tear down the only legacy worth leaving for our kids. What are we meant to do with them if we don't send them to school? Let them wallow in ignorance and regress to the stone age? Please! As much of a science buff as I tend to be sometimes, I'd rather observe the stone age in books and documentaries than do so up close.
I have tried numerous times and failed woefully to see the logic behind the ideology that western education is a sin. Adding to my confusion is the fact that a group that abhors education uses the very same tools that are the result of educational prowess to wage a war against innocent people. This is both contradictory of their ideology and an affront to our collective intelligence.
Nelson Mandela in one of his most famous quotes said "Education is the most powerful tool which we can use to change the world." We all want to leave a better country and indeed a better world for our children. The best way we can do so is by making sure they go to school and get the necessary education to change this country for the better. Giving in to the threats of a mob of misguided individuals is going to set us farther back on the progress scale.
As I fuss and ponder over what other precautionary items I can add to my 'starting school' checklist, I leave you with another quote by Nelson Mandela.
"A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special."