On a bus this morning on my way to work, was held up in the usual Lagos traffic, which at this point on my route is caused by a long stretch of the road that forces vehicles to move slowly. However, today, a small boy of about 10 years, who was also on the bus with an elderly woman, on noticing the part of the road that had no barrier stopping vehicles from using the other axis meant for oncoming vehicles , (what is called “one way”), fearlessly muttered to the driver to “take one way nah”. This suggestion by the boy was innocently made, to beat the heavy traffic. Instantly, I began to perceive why we may be in much more trouble than we thought. If a boy of ten years can see nothing wrong with driving against traffic, then we need to not only question what our children are doing in schools and the content of our curriculum, but also, why a lot of them aren’t even in school.
Instead of asking why people don’t drive against traffic, a ten year old is actually encouraging an elderly man to do so. Why? He has seen it done, over and over again, without any serious implications, if any at all and now, it seems like the normal thing. The same way a ten year old sees absolutely nothing or very little wrong in driving against traffic, is the same way they rationalise and normalise bribery, touting by “agberos”, corruption in the system, police extortion, poor environmental conditions like water logged streets, muddy roads, roadside refuse dumps etc. Subconsciously, they see no order in the society and therefore have a higher potential of becoming unpatriotic, lawbreakers without regard for the societal order that laws are actually meant to instill. They have been left to “catch up” with life by themselves, with no one taking time, to explain why and how things work the way they do and how they should think of making these systems better, not worse. Every adult is now just about money, no one has time for the kids anymore, so they begin to learn that life is about money and they wind every fabric of their thinking around money.
Money becomes the primary focus, family becomes secondary, patriotism becomes secondary, integrity, loyalty, hard work, long term commitment, marriage, even academics are all shoved behind while money is made the primary essence of life. Money is important, very important and can make life more luxurious, however, life isn’t about money alone. Our kids are emulating the lives they see adults live, unfortunately, they potentially take it a step further as 21st century kids.
Learning by observation, these children are subtly exposed to, and conditioned, to believe there is really no order in our society and they can therefore do anything, absolutely anything and get away. Psychologist Albert Bandura, famously known for his Bobo doll experiment (http://psychology.about.com/od/classicpsychologystudies/a/bobo-doll-experiment.htm) helps us understand the effects of the actions of adults on the learning process of children through observational learning (http://psychology.about.com/od/oindex/fl/What-Is-Observational-Learning.htm). Our children, our future are being taught a bad trend and we may be in more trouble than we ever thought, if we don’t, as a matter of urgency begin to, not only do the right things but to also do things right, politically, economically,academically, socially and in every sphere of life because these kids are watching and are being influenced.
Adagba Whenu Tobi
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