Change, NYSC

My Father Doesn’t Care

One of my students in the final secondary school level spoke the words above. Although these words were spoken in a rural area in northern Nigeria, they are representative of the educational inclination of a considerable number of parents across Nigeria.

The student came to plead with me concerning a class test she missed. I could not understand why a student would miss a test that had been publicised for a week. She said her father usually holds a nuclear family meeting every first Saturday in October. This year, he decided to bring the meeting forward, not minding that Friday is a school day. Despite a plea by his daughter, informing him of her scheduled test, he ordered her to stay for the meeting. In her own words, “My father is very hard oh. He doesn’t care if I fail“.

How many parents share that view? For many parents, their responsibility stops at grudgingly paying their children’s school fees and providing for uniforms and books (not textbooks). How the child performs at school is the child’s unsupervised prerogative. Their parents are simply not bothered by something as trivial as formal education. When there’s money to be made in business, why fret over books and report sheets?

An overwhelming percentage of educational high performers have parents/guardians who take active interest in their educational pursuit—parents who will ensure that their children leave for school on time, in the right uniform. These parents check their children’s books after school, nudge them to do any given assignments, and assist them where necessary. These parents are not just known by the school’s bursar, but are known by their children’s teachers. They go as far as having the phone numbers of the teachers. When you have such a parent who actively supports your education, you have to be a special case not to succeed.

On the other hand, we have parents like this girl’s father, who simply don’t care. In their minds, education starts and ends in the classroom. Schoolwork has no place in the home. For some, day-to-night work ensures that they are hardly home for their children. For others, after school, their children are expected to report to the family’s business. When they finally get home, there’s no talk of schoolwork. It’s “to your beds O Israel!” These parents are even nice. The millions of out-of-school children in Nigeria have people they call parents or guardians.

In light of economic realities in Nigeria, one cannot simply excoriate parents who involve their children in activities geared towards aiding the family. It’s not a clear case of black and white. However, when such parents become pachydermatous to their children’s education, it is simply shameful. There are parents who considering activities of the day, wake their children during the night to do some reading. Such parents don’t have two heads.

When parents care about their children’s future, they do all they can to help them succeed, including cutting them some slack to provide more time for educational activities. Having a full-time job, or a shop, or a farm, does not mean that your children should be academically malnourished. Each time I look at the underperforming students in any of my classes, I think of the parents who are not doing their jobs correctly. I think this way because I know my parents’ role in my education. The “most unserious” child has that title because of his parents’ actions or inactions.

Parents have to be positive catalysts for their children’s education, not inhibitors. As for the girl who came to plead, I told her that our president has spoken against corruption and special favours. Though I recognise the importance of a case-by-case policy, sometimes, for consistency, one rule is needed for all. She only scored zero in this test, nothing less than that. Next test, she’ll have a chance to do better.

PS. There’s an odd chance that the girl lied to me. Even if that were to be true, it will not detract anything from the article.

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