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AnuOluwapo Adelakun: Dear Teacher, Please Shut Up

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Growing up, there were times when I wished my parents could come to my primary school to give some of my teachers a very dirty slap.  

Most of them were amazing, but some simply had no business teaching. For instance, there was one who always flogged me for not being able to tell the time, at age 6. I knew that as long as she asked me I would never know how to, because 5 seconds after she says “What O’clock is it?” a long whip would land on my back.
Poor me, I was only trying to catch up with the ever-moving ‘seconds hand’. It just would never stop, so that I could tell the time correctly. I always wished my mom could sit on her the way I saw Hulk Hogan do in WWE… just so she could feel my pain.
I envied my mates whose mothers readily turned up at school the morning after beatings with their scarfs tied around their waists ready to yell and lock the shirts of erring teachers.

Once, I tried to stand up to a lesson teacher who flogged my younger brother mercilessly with a leather belt, because he didn’t do his assignments. I became his victim as well and our parents thought that was good discipline: spare the rod, you would spoil the child.

If I hadn’t attended a secondary school where flogging was a rare event and always last resort, I wouldn’t have understood the value of words and how words shape us as human beings. The Reverend Sisters that administered my secondary school (Go Louisville!), showered us with teachings about good moral values and when we were scolded, the mesage sank into where whips couldn’t reach. That was more practical in my own opinion.
We learnt to do things without being pushed or flogged like sheep. If only the average Nigerian got this type of upbringing…

I mean, the average Nigerian disobeys simple traffic light directions, but if he/she hears there’s a soldier with a long whip or Traffic officers waiting to flog or fine offenders, everyone will fall in line. It had to take Ebola for people to learn how to queue up and not push at bus stops. I digress.

So, back to the teacher issue. Some weeks ago, my neighbour’s very jolly 7-year-old daughter came home crying from school. When my sister asked what happened, the little girl said: “My teacher said I’m too black to be the princess at Inter-house sports.”

My sister consoled her and narrated the story to me later that night. I was furious! First off, it remind me of how many times I got passed over in Primary school when it was time to pick the Princesses during inter-house sports (If you never participated in march-past during Inter-house sports competition in school, you can’t understand the struggle and if you’re not Nigerian, we probably need to school you on this.)

The light-skinned girls always became the tiara-doning Cinderellas. It was never a chocolate girl like me. I had a Chinese-Nigerian friend who was always Princess during inter-house sports and was automatically picked to play the role of  ‘Mary’ the mother of Jesus during the Christmas play (Hello Mary Joaness!)

If you weren’t fair-skinned, you just weren’t considered pretty enough. Thank God complexion had no role to play in academics, else we would have sat through all the prize-giving days.

Anyway, I had a personal chat with my neighbor’s daughter and she confirmed what her teacher had said. There and then, I made up my mind I was going to show up at her school the next day to fight for her like the super hero moms from when I was a little girl.
Well, a few hours later, when the activist in me had calmed down, I decided showing up to fight would make no sense. The girl’s mother didn’t even see it as a big deal. And that was where my work began. After a chat with her mom, I promised myself that each time I saw that girl, I’d call her ‘Miss World’. At first, she was shy but I see how her face lights up these days. It’s a gradual process.

Reinforcing ridiculous beauty standards in little girls goes a long way in building up their self-image. Not everyone bathing in carrot creams and all sorts these days do so because they simply want to pamper themselves; someone, somewhere, reinforced the idea that fair girls are pretty and chocolate or dark skinned girls are a N0-No. Then these same people who claim that fairness of complexion is the ideal beauty standard, can’t stand albinos.

I wish someone could have shut that teacher up when she was spewing such folly in the presence of several other little girls. I’m glad I could teach my neighbour’s daughter otherwise. However, there are many more teachers and even mothers out there who teach little girls directly or indirectly about the unfair beauty expectations of the society.

If you’re reading this, I hope you feel a sense of duty to counter the damage that is being done to the self-image of these children. I hope you teach our little girls that they are beautiful no matter the colour of their skin, height, hair color or texture. That they are perfect little images of God and that right there in their little palms is the future of our world.

If you can’t or won’t do this please make sure you’re not contributing to the silly stereotypes.

Melanin drizzles and a splash of confidence,

Anu

Photo Credit: Igor Golubov | Dreamstime.com

AnuOluwapo Adelakun is a Women & Girls rights advocate, Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker working on issues affecting marginalized girls and women in Nigeria. She's a UNICEF Voices of Youth alumni, Carrington Youth Fellow of the US Consulate in Nigeria, US Consul General Award Recipient, UN WOMEN/Empower Women Global Champion for Change and UK Chevening Alumna. She's also an ardent reader of African literature and an unrepentant fan of the BBC series 'Call the Midwife'.

16 Comments

  1. Puzzles

    June 27, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    You should have convinced her mother mire to do something. Maybe raise the issue in a PTA meeting. Seriously, it’s offensive.

    Now that i think of it, i never aspired to be princess or queen in inter-house sports because i automatically believed i wasn’t beautiful enough. My lil sister on the other hand got to be princess because she is light skinned and beautiful. (I love my sister o. Not envious at all)

    • Dame

      June 28, 2017 at 9:35 am

      Oh Anu you should have gingered the mother to go to that school …if it were my daughter i am soooooooooooooo changing her school not before i make my case known far and wild. you cannot talk down on any of my children for whatever reasons.
      My mom and dad were the kind that turned up to our school for any reason…once my sisters hand broke because the headmaster in Pry 6 uses baton as cane and it mistakenly fell on her while he wanted to beat another student…lol…we got free notebooks and uniforms for like one year and the headmaster copied my sisters note till her hand was ok…so many other incidents,
      Mt children school should be prepared o…i am a mafia when my kids are involved

  2. kkay

    June 27, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    Bravo, Anu!
    We need more voices raised to counter this negative stereotypes that have colonized the mentality of the average Nigerian. I don’t understand how some people expect others to fit into a particular mold, physique, complexion and class.
    It bothers me more when children are made to feel inadequate in anyway by people who ought to know better.
    Parents what are your children being subjected to? Wake up and speak up!

  3. Gia

    June 27, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    Nigerians are so dumb thay can’t even see how much damage westners-glamourization(infact non-africans glorification)is causing…non africans always get a red carpet treatment in nigeria…mixed kids are treated as demi gods…our languages are gradually disappearing…why are our people so STUPID!!?

  4. Tochi

    June 27, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    Well said Anu. I find that there are many adults with broken perceptions of life projecting their fears and prejudice and limitations to younger people. Even parents do it. I know mothers who tell their daughters they are too fat and won’t find a husband.

  5. Rita

    June 27, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    Anu d advocate.Welldone and keep moving.???

  6. Williams Omolara

    June 27, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    Wow this is really inspiring

  7. BijouxthisBijouxthat

    June 27, 2017 at 7:18 pm

    Hello beautiful people on BN, I need an honest review of Micah’s meal book.
    Is it worth it? Is it easily do-able? Anyone regretted or not buying it?
    Tried searching for reviews but can’t find any. Please help

  8. aj

    June 27, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    So true I remember one fair girl in my sisters class in one of those top primary schools in Nigeria being so popular because of her beauty and fair skin. The amount of followers she had then was something to write home about. Now she is having problem settling down and finding someone because of her arrogant attitude. awful!

  9. aj

    June 27, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    nice article Anu!

  10. C

    June 27, 2017 at 9:26 pm

    Nigeria got some awful teachers that have no business teaching ain’t even gon lie… I get mad having to reteach adults older than me simple primary maths and integrity of doing their work.

  11. M

    June 27, 2017 at 9:45 pm

    Anu baby!! I was one of the regular house princess at inter-house sports at our primary school (Saint Catherines) lol. Now I know why. I now feel my childhood was a lie o Jeezas haha. I used to think I got the roles because I was smart and sporty. Anu you haff killed me o choi. And can u remember Mr Folarin our Maths teacher in Primary 4. He slapped me because I turned in the wrong assignment. My mum came the next day. He was sacked that same day. I felt bad but later on felt he deserved what he got. He was the only teacher that liked flogging female pupils on their bum. So bad. I laughed all through the entire article cuz I related to everything you said. But on a more serious note we need to quit this colourization thing. Female children start to get the preferential treatment just cuz they’re fair from as little as 3/4. It’s quite silly. And the society leaves the darker girls feeling like they are ugly and not really worth the admiration. Some parents even go as far as bleaching their little girls too. Cream mixers have started mixing for children too. Really really mad ting.

    • Anu

      June 29, 2017 at 12:13 pm

      You are spot on. Mr Folarin was the said lesson teacher who flogged my brother with a belt. He was a very frustrated man. I hope he found peace eventually.

  12. Moses

    June 27, 2017 at 11:36 pm

    We get discriminated against by non-Africans, and even kids get discriminated against on basis of color by confused Africans. Body-shaming and such senseless discriminations. Narrow-minded teachers messing up the sacred duty of molding a finer version of society. Thank you, Anu, for standing up for that little girl and the generation coming through her.

  13. Chibuike

    June 28, 2017 at 1:45 am

    You and write and make points for Africa eh!

  14. Tutu

    June 28, 2017 at 11:06 am

    Calling her miss world brought tears to my eyes. ( I actually had to wipe them off) you don’t know what you’re doing to the self esteem of that girl. I was always passed up as a child In school too but my Mom called me “her own Agbani Darego”. Lol. It always made me happy and made me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world!

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