Nigeria: Toddler education The harsh reality of parenting

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    The recent upsurge in the early exposure of children to pre-nursery education is disturbing. Though with its strengths, as some experts argue, others insist that it weakens the mother-child bonding expected at such stage of child development as reported by KEHINDE OYETIMI.


    IT was the usual January harmattan morning. The children had been laid to bed a little late since Angela, their mum, had to leave the office, late as usual, attending to heaps of files on her desk. Since she had to travel on another official assignment, having done so the previous week, she seemed to have no other choice than attend to pending issues to be treated at the office. George Nduka, Angela’s husband, was on an official tour with his boss so as to ascertain the level of progress recorded in other branches of the company nationwide. Therefore, he wasn’t around.


    The children—Martha and Matthew—were woken up by Patricia, the house help, at some minutes past 5.45 in the morning so as to get them ready for school. “Aunty Pat, can’t we sleep a little longer?,” whined Martha. “I’m sorry, no,” Patricia replied. Matthew threw tantrums, obviously protesting that he needed more sleep. Martha, the older of the two children, was only a bit above two when she started school. Her younger brother, Matthew, was made to start off at an earlier age than his sister. He was a year and eight months old.


    The Ndukas would not allow in-laws to come help with their children, and so reluctantly took a maid to help. George had earlier insisted that Angela resigned from her job but she had refused on the grounds that more money was needed so as to help in running the home. “I also didn’t study at the university just to sit at home and babysit or be transformed into an ignoble housewife. No honey, I won’t take it. It is belittling,” she argued. They had therefore lived all these years with that.


    The case of the Ndukas is reflective of many other homes. The typical family today has many issues to grapple with. Such perennial questions as accommodation rent, electricity bills, demands from extended family members, among many others have kept couples on their toes. While wives are made to work from dawn to dusk, husbands virtually utilise the whole of the seven days in the week. In cases where they are forced to stay at home, perhaps, on health grounds or on leave which they reluctantly desire, they are usually with their laptops, concluding one official assignment/contract or the other. Their children, whom they hardly see, contend with the laptop for daddy’s or mummy’s attention. The housemaid is called to whisk the children away.

    It is commonplace to observe that, unlike what operated about 10 or 15 years ago, crèches and pre-primary schools have taken over. Formerly, children were made to stay at home until they were about 5 years before being introduced to schooling. The reverse, apparently, is the situation today.


    Even toddlers are being admitted into these schools. For many families, the moment a baby has been weaned from taking breastfeeding, it is made to register at one day care centre or the other. These children are woken up at very odd hours in the morning, and amidst cries and wailing, are made to prepare for school. A child who is barely three is forced into a uniform, the diapers firmly tucked, with a slice of bread or two, a cup of tea for breakfast, with candies and cookies to get the cooperation of the kid and a lunch box filled with all niceties, the child is driven to school. The eyes still sleepy, obviously not recovered from the hangover of the previous day.


    Read the full story in The Sunday Tribuen, 21 June 2010