The news in the last few days has been dark especially in my country, Nigeria. It is not about COVID19 but the effects of a pandemic in some ways. I recently participated in a WhatsApp group session where we talked about “The Nigerian Child- Past and Present Successes and Struggles. It was hosted by a young charismatic lady called Iniobong Emmanuel who is passionate about the development of children and young people.
The Ups and Downs
I remember sharing that the Nigerian child has quite a few past and present successes. The win of crossing age 5 and not dying from childhood diseases like pneumonia, tetanus, diarrhoea and malnutrition is a big win. Reaching age 15 and is able to read and write is a win, putting it into the context that having basic primary education is a win. A Nigerian child not caught up in traumatic or tragic accidents or life-changing injuries as a Nigerian child is a win. Looking back as a child, there are other little wins of the Nigerian child gained individually and collectively with other members of the society who are part of the child’s community.
The Struggles of the Nigerian Child
We also have struggles of the Nigerian child. As we grow and are still growing we experience some of these struggles either alone or as a group. I’d like to write about a few of these struggles faced as a Nigerian child. We struggle for a right to live, a right to be heard, a right to education, good health and a sustainable environment. There are lots of things we struggle for even as adults and children struggle too. They are humans. We should stop saying, “He/she is only a child”. They have physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs as well. Ultimately, a Nigerian child struggles for growth, development and utmost wellbeing.
Problems the Nigerian Child Faces
As I look through what is happening in our present society and as I work with children and adolescents.
1. Faith- Everyone has faith in something or someone. Let’s remove the context of religion. Our hearts seek a belief system we had someone or something we were taught to believe in. Now, we tend to love our fast-paced lives and the demand for needs and wants increases, the Nigerian child seems misplaced and doesn’t know where to place faith. Faith in parents doesn’t give much, just as faith in education is a dearth. So where would the Nigerian child put his/her faith? Faith is concretely lost in God as we talk about God only in terms of delivering or fulfilling our demands. If He doesn’t, then we don’t put faith in Him or talk about him to our children. If we lose faith in God as our Lord, what will happen to our children?
2. Love: Love is getting colder maybe as a result of our current lifestyles. Christians have verses in the Bible that say, love waxing getting cold, many becoming selfish and all things that portray a lack of love. Love your neighbour as yourself, I love this verse in the Bible as it sums what we are to do as humans. We have not taught the Nigerian child to love themselves, their origin or country. We haven’t learnt to love what we have or even ourselves as people. This makes the child struggle with identity and acceptance.
Parents are broken and struggle with identity and acceptance. Love becomes hard to give in many cases. A lack of restoration makes it even more difficult. Words spoken are meant to be out of love but sometimes cause damages. A child struggles with whether he fits into where he calls home or if life is better elsewhere. He grows up to think of Nigeria as somewhere not to live. We have so many conflicts, he thinks what’s there to love when all is hate I see?
3. Peace: Peace brings freedom. The Nigerian child struggles with peace to do exploits, to reach their full potential. Where there’s no peace, there cannot be understanding of things. There will be no radiation of sunshine of success. You won’t even think of exploring the talents you believe you have when peace is absent. The Nigerian child lives in a tensed society. No one is explaining why things are the way they are, less or very little people are working towards the growth of the child. He or She is just a child as we like to say or believe. He/she is a human filled with emotions. We have to treat them as humans. Give the opportunity to do things in the appropriate way. Let’s strive for peace at home, school, workplace, in the community and most importantly in our hearts.
Way out of Our Brokeness
I like to leave the struggles in these three points because there lie all the issues we have today with the Nigerian child.
Some young adults are still suffering from crazy childhood experiences. They are floating adults who are just going through the motions of life. A cracked foundation of a child leaves a young adult disoriented about life.
Do we have solutions? Yes, we do! First, it starts with you and me. If you as an adult haven’t healed or isn’t in the right state of mind, you cannot help a Nigerian child. You have to go through the healing process from what your childhood may have caused you before you can heal anyone else.
It starts with little steps. What can you do for the child in your neighbourhood? That child that everyone seems to say is troublesome or you see the need to help the child who is vulnerable? What little thing can you do? Be sure to be equipped to help mentally, socially, physically and especially spiritually? You don’t need to have a massive amount of money in the bank to help a Nigerian child. Every little help!
What can the community do? Again it is you and I coming together in clusters and seeing what we can do for the Nigerian child.
Don’t have preconceived ideas before helping. Ask questions to know what to do. Listen emphatically. Don’t judge the child with your own experiences. Drop all your judgements at the door. Stay open-minded about children as you deal with them.
Solutions come in many ways. Yes, there’s government and all other agencies, but you and I are still the very beginning of things.
Your faith is a solid foundation for a child. Build the child’s faith and let the journey continue.
If you want to discuss more the Nigerian child and ways we can help them in our communities, you can contact me via https://drweyoms.com/contact/
Learn more about the work I do with adolescents here http://cmadi.org/our-projects/the-community-girl-project/