Every young person has, perhaps on many occasions, heard their parents say this while lamenting on the current state of Nigeria. (Many) Nigerian children – especially millennials – grew up with tales of how our parents ate free meals in school, how education was (almost) free, how our healthcare system was good, how jobs awaited graduates after school and how the economy was booming. In fact, former Head-of-State, Yakubu Gowon, reportedly once said that Nigeria’s problem was not how to make money, but how to spend money.
But let’s face it, this is no longer the case. The Nigeria of the ‘good old days’ is not the Nigeria of today. Things have changed and the conversation is different. It is, thus, very important that parents have sincere discussions with their children on the turn the economy has taken and how they can prepare themselves better to live in this country.
So are you a parent and you don’t know how to start the conversation about Nigeria with your child? We’ve put together a list of things you can start with.
Tell them about the ‘Good Old Days’
We know you’ve probably told these stories a million times, but this time around, it’s going to be a ‘serious’ discussion. This means that you have to wear your serious face. Tell them about how Nigeria was while you were growing up – the value of our Naira, the economy that was probably not so good but way better than now, the state of security and education, and then compare it with how it is today. In fact, your child will already notice the difference while you talk. Let them know that the state of the country has steadily deteriorated over the years. While it is good for them to hope and pray that things get better, it is better for them to know the true state of the nation and what they are up against.
Gone are the days where you force or cajole your children to become doctors or lawyers or engineers. Gone are the days where you also tell them to study hard so they can “get a good job after graduation”. There are jobs, yes, but the population of Nigerian graduates is far beyond the number of available jobs. So while it is important for you to encourage your children to study hard at their chosen course of study, it is important to encourage them to learn a skill(s) and hone it. The rate of unemployment keeps skyrocketing; it is important for your children to expand their horizon (and job search) beyond the country. This can only be achieved if they study a course or have a skill that is needed beyond the shores of Nigeria and Africa.
Our current education system does not also prepare students and graduates for the world beyond school – there’s a lack of equipment, use of outdated syllabus, no basic amenities to aid learning, over-population in schools and so on. Graduates end up finding their levels. It’s important for children to already know this and prepare their minds for what’s to come.
It is amazing to be that youth who balls hard, has a lot of fun, has an amazing social life, but truth be told, Nigeria is not safe. We also don’t have a functioning law enforcement unit. Let your children know that although you want them to have a great social life, you’re probably going to have to monitor their movement. Remind them that you’re not doing this because you want to be overprotective, but because you need to be aware if anything happens – like SARS arresting them. They also need to be extremely careful because we now live in a country where fire outbreaks are not properly managed, accident victims are not guaranteed proper medical care – or any medical care at all, many policemen have gone rogue and are now robbing citizens in broad daylight, Boko Haram is still at large in the North, kidnapping is now very rampant – there are just too many security issues. As bitter as this discussion is, it is the truth! And you have to let them know the truth. Don’t downplay it, neither should you instil fear in them by exaggerating.
To make Nigeria better than it is, it is important to communicate the essence of obeying rules. Many Nigerians, in the bid to be smart, flout rules and then pray that the country will get better. In truth, the change we want to see begins with us. You want a clean Nigeria? Start by throwing your used wrappers in the bin and not on the floor. You want an orderly country? Start by joining the queue and waiting for your turn. Sometimes, it can get difficult, especially when others who passed corner-corner are being attended to first, or those who defied the rules are being praised for being smart, so you begin to feel cheated for doing the right thing. However, let your children know that doing the right is not just to make the country better, it is also to make their own lives better.
They Can Be That Change
To take Nigeria back to the ‘good old days’, every hand must be on deck. This means that you have to embolden your kids, teach them to be able to speak up and speak out when they see something wrong. It is, at this point, very important not to raise a generation of cowards. One way this can be done is to instil confidence in your children, teach them they have a voice that should be heard. Don’t dissuade your children from being interested in political matters or how governance is run.
Children in many other countries are conquering the world, our kids can do that too.
They Cannot Change the World
Every kid dreams of how they are going to change the world and make it better. Sadly, it is impossible. It is amazing that many children are empathetic and want to explore the world, do amazing things and make people better, but it is important to let them know that the best they can do is to be the best version of themselves and try to pull people up as they grow.
Let’s be frank, Nigeria is currently not favourable to her youth, so while we strive to make the country better, it is also important to explore many other places where your talent and skills will be put into great use.
These conversations are not so easy to have, but they are highly necessary. Have you had them with your children? How did it go?