Stop Raising Robots

It’s that period of the year when ajebota kids go to exotic places, ajepako kids get reunited with their grandparents and regular parents look for places to dump their troublesome kids for a few hours in the day and pick them up when the day is gone. Folks, the summer holiday is here.

I’ll forgive you if it’s difficult for you to resist slapping any Nigerian who refers to this period as the summer holidays. No! This is nothing like summer. The rain falls with the predictability of Nigeria’s electricity, everything is wet, and our noses are runny. This is the long holiday or the long vacation or the long vac, and it falls in the middle of the rainy season.

If you do this regularly, you are not permitted to think you're part of the 'naija masses'. Image via flickr by Christine Vaufrey
If you do this often, you are not permitted to think you’re part of the ‘naija masses’. Image via flickr by Christine Vaufrey

If we were American (and many of us Nigerians wish we were) this would have been the time for us to make a nuisance of ourselves on beaches around the world. We would be loitering on foreign soil dressed in next to nothing or sunbathing with a large hat covering our heads and a thick book in our hands. But no one sunbaths in Nigeria, we have enough of the sun every day.

In honour of this generally western (and American by cliché) time of the year, a lot of websites and blogs have come up with summer reading lists. For a moment, I was tempted join the fad, then I remembered vacations are alien to us. We will rather get paid to work through our annual leave than spend it in Copacabana watching the World Cup. I also thought of creating a reading list for kids. My friends are getting married and having kids and I’m trying to stay ahead of the parental-advisory-committee curve.

Growing up, my father used to buy a few books at the start of every holiday. It used to be Children’s fiction, or abridged versions of literary classics, except the time I started the holiday with a reading of the book of proverbs. I also attended music workshops, and while I can’t say I play any musical instrument with confidence, I can interpret musical notation with ease. That has to count for something.

Today, the average child knows the holiday is not the time to fool around. Somewhere between the late nineties and the dawn of the new millennium, some very smart people decided to start summer schools. Forgive me if they started before that time; I had no idea. Before that period, I wasn’t aware of that crime against humanity. Holidays stopped being the time to fool around and be kids, and became the time to work on subjects failed in the past year and be prepared for the next school session.

With the exception of the few that go to Vacation Bible Schools and those who have parents who can afford to send them around the world, holidays for a lot of Nigerian kids is just school-in-mufti. There is no reasonable explanation for this—none. I wish more parents will do some research and discover they are not helping their children by making them school in perpetuity. The holidays are supposed to be fun. Allow you children to go out. Let them have a life outside of school. Let them attend summer camps (Nigerian organizers still insist on calling them that), music workshops and, above all, buy them books. Introduce them to the wonders of literature and music and martial arts and anything apart from their school work. Let’s stop this trend of raising super-kids with empathy shaped holes at the centre of their beings.

Don’t take my word for it. Do your research. Surf the web for ideas. Walk around your locality and find fun places to take your kids to. Do this now, before you pause and realise you’re about to heed the parental advice of someone who has never raised a child.


16 Replies to “Stop Raising Robots”

  1. The whole school-school culture is doing my head in; it’s like that’s all a child is worth today. Raise academically sound robots who can’t function outside school work. I keep telling a couple of kids how intelligent they are book-wise but not smart when it’ comes figuring things out for themselves; then I give them a simple brain teaser and watch them crumble.

    I think Oga Fashola should revise this Child Act and include fun time for kids.

    1. There are many people who are advocating for a change in the way we teach school children, so we can make their education better. But while educationists try to get their acts together, I think the bulk of the task lies with parents.

      I’m not even sure if the present act is obeyed to the letter. I don’t think more fun time is what kids need, rather, the present time for fun should be used for what it is intended for.

      One day your kids will report a big aunty who gives them tough questions to answer to you. Remember thee this day when that happens.

    1. Maybe they won’t. But they can be sure when I have kids they will see none of my money in the holidays–whether they like it or not. I’m guessing school-in-mufti brought back memories for you too.

  2. My goodness. I haven’t heard school in mufti in a while. Thank you SO much for taking me down memory lane! lol
    I started tutoring at a college center sometime last year and when it was time to say goodbye to my kids for the summer, we had a list of things we suggested (similar to what you have up there).

    I’m going to be presumptuous, but I think one of the reasons why Nigerian children are behind their foreign counterparts in education is due to Summer Slide: the loss of educational skills (mostly reading and math) which causes a decline in knowledge ahead of the school year. Not saying that all kids should do summer school—God knows some people seriously need this. I just wish people know that they have options and can make choices that work for them.

    I remember my Summers in naija; I did nothing except read romance/historical novels I “forgot” to return to my classmates. Now I wish I had enrolled in some music academy or a graphic designing classes.

    Now, I wish all fingers were equal. In America, some of these things are free or subsidized—they even beg you to register your kids for a chance to win something. But the challenge is that most of these things can only be achieved by affluent families in Nigeria.

    1. I want to disagree with your Summer Slide opinion but that will just be me being a pedant because, some kids do need work in the holidays. I just wish parents know this is not the case for every kid. I’m sure the time you spent with those novels of yours were not a complete waste. You are the kind of person who will know the right thing to do with her kids in the summer so, your kids will be lucky.

  3. I know of students who close school late and still have private lesson teachers at home. Its so annoying! We need to bring up our children differntly….i’m glad I was never subjected to the lesson lesson tingy…except for pry 6 Common entrance and JSCE sha

  4. My parents were very academic education conscious, at least my mum was. I was good at school and part of my “summer” holiday was spent studying the next term’s syllabus. It was only for a few hours a week and there was plenty time for play. This meant I played more than other students during prep time and aced my exams when school resumed 🙂

    Balance is key. Some parents are too busy for parenting and see summer schools as a kind of baby sitter. I think kids should have some academic learning during the long holidays, not the school in mufti concept though. In addition, as a parent, I’m hands on when it comes to reading comprehension, poetry and essay writing, debate, and presentation. No holiday is complete without an essay articulating and defending your view on an issue of your choice in my house 🙂 In the real world, the ability to think on your feet and showcase your ideas expertly is valued and emotional/relational intelligence facilitates success, in my view.

  5. Lol @ martial arts.

    A healthy mix of school and fun is what makes a not-lopsided being, in my own opinion, especially in a clime like ours where learning is not particularly fun.

    An early introduction of kids to what life has to offer in addition to school in forms of extracurricular involvement, talent honing, bankable skills acquisition et al, might just turn out to be what the child would be grateful to you for – eternally.

  6. An analysis of the schools in mufty will amount to nothing than privileged few parents who are to busy to parent and see the schools as a place for child care why they are away with their personal life, or the averagely schooled parents who have bin indoctrinated to believe that by so stressing a child out he or she will become a bright brain(put in a street man parlance “guru”) and Hence they would want the child to have what they didn’t get. No body care about the psychological effect. You see parents taking their offsprings to what I call dumping ground from 7am – 5pm to study with a curriculum designed for 6hrs because they needed a place to dump the child till work closes. I agree it doesn’t quite do the child good cos an aspect of his education is nipped in the bud. And I think we should embark on a campaign against that with the only tool we have. Black on white

  7. I think you are missing a perspective. It is true that Nigerian parents enrol/dump thier children for school-in-mufti and more lessons during school period inorder that they might become gurus. But some actually dump their children in school 7-5 cos there’s no one to look after them as both parents work and there’s the security scare of what can happen to your kids when no one’s around or the kids are too young to be left at home.

    also for the long vac period, these days when children aren’t allowed to visit/play with their neighbours when they are home,some of these kids actually love the vacation lessons as they are opportunities for them to meet and play with their friends. In this country, there’s nothing like a neighbourhood park, many cities don’t have even cinemas, there are no fairs, private music and dance classes are expensive. And these are some of the reasons you see all children attending school-in-mufti


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