The Virgin Atlantic section of the departure hall teemed with teenagers this weekend just gone. Returning secondary school students far out-numbered their parents and escorts as they weighed their boxes, checked their travelling documentations, checked in and presented luggage for check-in. There was much excitement in the air as these youngsters talked amongst them. Some had met up again at the airport after the week-long holiday. A few parents looked glum and understandably so because their beloved children were going back again to terrains thousands of miles beyond the Atlantic Ocean.
A gentle-man friend of ours came over for a chat and introduced his teenaged daughter who was returning unaccompanied to school in the UK. She, as well, had been home for the week-long half-term holiday. It was very obvious that he was a doting father and that there was a strong paternal connection between father and daughter. I found her Nigerian-style greeting respectful and commendable on the one hand, whilst her characteristic British-style ability of a growing child to hold a simple social conversation unabashedly, was equally applaud-able.
Seriously, I have to give a ‘thumbs up’ to the grooming system in British schools. It encourages children to; speak up for themselves, challenge issues they find uncomfortable and apply assertiveness where necessary. On the other hand too, I found this teenager’s curtsying (to greet an older person) assuring that sound ‘Nigerian-ness’ is after all being ingrained in many of our children that go to school abroad.
So, my husband spotted another long-seen friend, caught his attention and waved him over. He in turn bounded over excitedly to our little sociable group. His own two teenaged children soon came over needing to get their papers off dad as they’d got to the top of their queue. The older one tugged gently at dad’s arm to catch his attention, his dad turned in his direction and instead of handing them over, he looked deep in his son’s face and said with significant heaviness, “Poor me, Nigeria!”
“Poor you, poor Nigeria?” I queried as I mouthed his statement slowly… “Madam” he said, my son is 18 years old and light years ahead of his peers. He is visionary, sensible, organised, studious, sociable, but look, Nigeria loses him to schools abroad. Look at all these potentially similar personalities and skills (whilst saying this he waves his hand and eyes over the huge number of teenagers travelling back) leaving today. Nigeria continues to lose these children to smarter colleges and countries abroad that tap into their brains to invariably develop their nations.
We all pondered on what he said and sombrely shook our heads. For how long more, can we endure academic and non-academic staff strikes in our higher institutions of education? Dare we hope that the one week old called-off ASUU strike would remain called off? Why then won’t parents strive to take their children to places where there are uninterrupted progressions in their education.
Omoru writes from the UK