By Ferdinand Ekechukwu
Coming from a development knowledge facilitator for the Millennium Development Goals, it is therefore not surprising that the import of the book, Conquering Teenage Pitfalls by Chiagozie Winifred Achuonu, is one that connects the family, parents and teachers, counsellors, and teen instructors. It is these key stakeholders that are in first contact in the early formative years of the youngsters who are the major target of this book. This, the author asserts that “The bulk of the work in training children is done by parents and the home, while religion, teachers and the society also play a role”.
The foundation of every society is the children. “A corrupt society will breed corrupt members”, she writes. A passionate teen educator, whose interest in family life knowledge has led her to places as far as Yobe State, where she thought Family and Community Life Education during her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) days. Her decision to write the book is borne out of her believe to help young ones understand their teenage years and possibly avoid all the inherent pitfalls of these years in order to become better adults and good members of the society.
This underscores the premise of the nine chapter publication which seeks to inspire and encourage teenagers to overcome and live above fears and challenges that could impinge them from achieving their dreams in a society bedevilled by corruption.
Drawing from her teenage experience about life and the knowledge acquired through works of other authors, Winifred, who holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Mass Communication, relates with teens as it concerns teenage encounters with the opposite sex, peers, bullies and life in general. On this strength, the book attempts issues such as how to overcome ones fears; peer pressure and bullying; and how to build self esteem and self-determination.
The 100-page book begins with a drive from the apt definition of teen-age and teenage sociology; through to the last chapter, where in the view of the author reiterates the fact of determination as the means of overcoming challenges of choice and of necessity. An expression the writer interestingly backs up with personal stories. While pointing out phenomenon of the teenage years as natural consequence, she argues that: “Although it can be a period of conflict between parents and their children, the teen years are also a time to grow into that special person you want to become.”
Such downside of teenage years is not without advantage; one which Acholonu depicts with an Igbo saying that “mmalite okorobia bu itu egwu Chineke,” meaning “the start of a young man or woman’s life is the fear of God.” Just like the saying that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. A view the writer expresses more than a little with Bible quotations. This cannot be said not to have gone down well with the theme of the book. It highlights cardinal tenets of the scriptures that lay the basis for moral values and upbringing, a responsibility the book assigns to the parents by means of talk.
Her literary prowess is not without the beauty of anecdotes. A design which makes the book a compelling read for whatever concept and self notions expressed by the author is backed with true life experience such that is told with adages; a reflection of Acholonu’s background having been born and bred by academic minded Igbo parents.
Reflective of the book’s theme are two factors which accounts inevitably in matters of teenage discourse. One is peer pressure and the other is bullying. Pressures arising from peer influence could be positive or negative. It is, however, better for one to be “fortunate to get a good peer group that can play positive role in shaping your personality and influence you to change for the better”, unlike negative role to miss classes, to steal, to fight, to drug abuse, and other social vices that inspire bullying.
Bringing his expert knowledge to bear in the topic “Understanding your body and how it works”, by Dr. Nwabugo O. D. in chapter seven deserves commendation as it explains biological changes, challenges and how to overcome them in the young male and female body. On the complexity and nature of puberty does this contribution aid the book to clarify, an aspect which would not have been properly treated had it been from Acholonu.
The choice of words and free flowing prose by the author to suit and understand the young ones makes it pleasurable. A book of simple rendition and very straight forward conversational language, testimony of its beauty would be incomplete without acknowledging copiously the works of other authors cited. Thus a compendium on powerful secrets for building a great self-esteem and live above peer pressure.