Nigeria – Corporal punishment they say is in our culture.
Most people in position of authority are incapable of using appropriate form of discipline to instil positive behaviour in our society. This is evidenced all around us, at home, schools and other public places.
Even Nigerians in diaspora were always advised to not forget “our culture” in their adopted countries, by this it means children must be flogged in order to get points across, and some of them indeed do follow this insane advise or did it because that is their only way of bringing up a disciplined child.
Last weekend as I sat at a 60th birthday party of a very nice lady, who has achieved so much all round success in her life, everyone looked so happy to be there and to celebrate her life. Then we had a comedian whose jokes was a added pleasure to already good mood, everyone laughed – a lot. One of the jokes was about how all Nigerian parents beat their children regardless of where they reside in the world, because it is a cultural thing, it is what they do at home. Now we all know how we get worked up when we heard statements that is a little bit over-generalising. Actually on this day, not many people laughed to this particular joke, or maybe the joke struck a cord in me that took me away from connecting to the people around me.
There is really no ‘yardstick’ for determining which offence get punished in Nigeria, the weight of punishment heavily depends on the mood of the adults around.
Sister Bola was very energetic happy-go-lucky type, very popular in town for her out spoken attitude. When she was in her mid 30s, her husband died in a terrible car crash on Ife-Ibadan road. At the time, she had 4 children to look after on her own, to say the least, it was a very difficult time for her for so many reasons. Her husband was a hard working man, he had a Bodyshop where he repaired cars of different makes. Now, Sister Bola had a lot to juggle, she just lost her husband, the in-laws were coming out of woodwork making claims of their son’s/brother’s properties – in Nigeria, husband’s family do this. Sister Bola was coping as well as she could.
So this day, I made a point to visit her on my way from work. She is my friend’s sister. When I got to her house, her older daughter who was 10years old at the time was on her knee with a piece of corrugated iron sheet, big enough to cover the palms of her hands, on the sheets were clusters of hot red coals. The poor girl was boiling and in pain, in sister Bola’s hand was a cane threatening to flog her if she dropped the metal sheet. Sister Bola has managed to shut everyone around up to mind their business.
When she saw me, we hugged and she started crying, I cried with her because nothing she was doing made any sense. I asked what was her daughter’s offence were to deserve being roasted alive, did she steal, break something? Sister Bola told me her daughter did not “listen” to her instructions. For some reason, I and her little sister managed to say something that she could reason with, so she let the poor girl off the hook. Sister Bola’s life was crumbling around her, the only way to let off the steam was to take it on her children. Would you call that our culture?
In primary schools, children get beating for being late or not paying attention in class. I was usually a punctual student and for some reason I seemed to listen in class. However in secondary school I got beating a lot for “making noise,” what was I supposed to do when there was no teacher in class?
Childhood beating memory lasts a lifetime.
It is wrong to lazily conclude that corporal punishment is our culture, no one likes to be flogged. Adults need to find better ways of dealing with life challenges without transferring their life frustrations to little ones around them.
Children will be children, we could adopt a more positive ways of discipline. For younger children, ‘time out’ works, and for older children withdrawing rewards would be a good start.