"Sear the Rod; Soil the Child will get you thinking along with the writer, and will stop you short with a reflective stare when you are done reading. Why, despite the numerous bodies 'fighting' for the rights of children do we seem to have little or no improvement? Find out the grassroots of the aggression children suffer. As you read, set your mind free, and decide to do the same for a child."- Editor's note.
A most deviant, yet cursorily time-honoured motif of our age, perhaps an ethnical canon – The child is no caution for old storms – pays homage, as with every semblance of distorted religious insinuations, to infringement – No struggle, no childhood. To be a child is to grow from a battle-broken soil of innocence. In turn, these are premises accountable for the very anticlimax that defines public delusion. However, the belittled but certain truth remains: any such phenomenon that fashions terror to the child as a convention of growth is aggression. Any form that inspires aggression from within a child also is aggression to that child. It is rather all too maddening to measure the toxin, to try to weigh it against pardonable shades. Subtle or stark, it interprets as barbaric nursing, the kind that sets the land to be haven for unspeakable visions of violence and injustices. A nation ignores it at its own peril.
Like slavery, child aggression is a social fact that has attracted so much attention all over the globe, from the sparring worlds of the West Bank to a once desolate Biafran wilderness, spurring organized initiatives from major bodies of power from governments to confederations. Not plainly so, the problem so far gauged, it seems, is vastly different – in derivative ways – from the collective society-polished statements, which, from a long surface history, set the limits of a defilement a child can receive to an array of conditions as thrashing, labour or rape and the accompanying sympathetic tags. To stem the scourge is in itself a setting off of a wave of notions, all too definite but narrow, even obscured to such underneath contemporary acts of self-indulgence enthroned as norms of a common daily struggle.
One would wonder why some like the ANPP, Nigerian Chapter of the African Network for Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect yet wavers on that brink of legal prudence. Since its 1988 creation of the Child Rights Act, why are there still variations – in acceptance and implementation – of the sacred enactment? There is indeed the urgent need for the government to gather statistics on this matter for control and to institute a national force which would pursue the inviolable interest. As reports confirm, only 26 out of 36 states have begun fulfilling the Act. As we say in Yoruba – t’ewe bape lara ose, ounna a d’ose. If the leaf wraps around the soap too long, that leaf also turns to soap. I think there is a demonstrative significance, albeit ominous, in the daily lurid reports, in what it seems the Nigerian eyes are beginning to acclimatize with: FATHER RAPES TWO DAUGHTERS, ORPHANAGE OWNER CHARGED FOR CHILD TRAFFICKING, BOKO HARAM ABDUCTS OVER 200 SCHOOLGIRLS, MOTHER POURS ACID ON HOUSEGIRL…and so on and on.
And then, of course, one is pushed to reminisce precise scenes of the historical siege of Bethlehem, schoolchildren sacrificed to the religious zealotry of Baldev or the brave self-baring act of a young Hector Peterson and his rounded protestant friends from apartheid South Africa. Yes, we even come so close to that term of outrage. The vile infant of doom, Boko Haram sets the wistful tune, as over two-hundred schoolgirls are yet unaccounted for from a mass abduction, something worrisome it does not require any foresight to recognize that this is just one blip from a familiar contraption a peculiar consistent past has created for us, something out of several more!
But today differs. Since, it marks a celebration – or an attempted restoration perhaps – of innocent children victims of aggression, there is a vague inclination towards a reference of bereavement, faced with such immense societal realities begging for extraction. But no, and yes just the same. No sheer citations of an awful past. There are still surviving scions of this decay, those concealed forms lodged in the cheapness of regular Nigerian survival, of what I have come to describe as the ‘sullied sanctuaries of socialization.’ It is futile to approach the phenomenon from surroundings of the idealized. The definitive moments are only captured in the intricacies of everyday life a child lives amid the silhouette influences of family and education.
In this line, expect no stereotypes of rape or hostility. Surprisingly, they are where the seeds of hate, confusion and contradictions are planted in young minds. They are the subtle defilements that greet the child in the ruse of either domestic or social routine. And they must be addressed.
A similar bane is possible even in primary intellectual sanctuaries, where the will of a young pupil may be forfeited by something as random but grave as a negligent scoffing from a teacher, something as identity-crushing as bearing contradictory values. Although the incompetence of the system is a rather bigger issue, I find it urgent the need for a return of the kind of a more humanistic and inclusive classroom. If education is not a progression toward a curtailing of fears, how has it succeeded in being what it claims to be? Let a child not witness antagonism on his path to illumination. Let him not secure doubts against the venture into an opening on his mind.
Such as this, the underlying consciousness of subjecting the notion of misery and gullibility to mean a benchmark of childhood is as much as any aggression that comes from treating a child on a diet of whiplashes. It is, as I have earlier said, a violation of the right of a young one to a sense of promise and a sure-to-be-fulfilling future. A certain sacredness is implicit when we say: Children are the rewards of life. However attentive of this claim we may be, that sense is questionable as I find it rather unpleasant the callous twisting of that Biblical injunction: Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child. All that conceded, the objective of grooming does not exclude restraint and simplicity, and by that I do not simply mean – enabling affection. Indeed, there is every need to curb all arts of searing the rod as singular means to an end: of priming the young.
Whatever the choice, this inhuman slur cannot be allowed to meld our ‘child-imperative’ mentality with conscience, that symbolic victory which peoples of all cultures appear to celebrate with rites, and some, buffets. Such necessities, we know, are not enduring, but time is, and so are the promises of the children of the land. And of those promises that inspire our existence, our struggle, and civilized definition at this time, none can be considered more vital than the end of hostility, the purge of child abuse, and the pulling apart of all their branches.
The fruits are hopeful days and a brighter future.
ABOUT OUR GUEST WRITER
Oyin Oludipe is a Nigerian poet. A playwright, social critic and editor, his oeuvre is budding, with short plays and poems published in anthologies and art journals like The Kalahari Review, The New Black Magazine and others. He writes a literary blog, Hairy Diary (oyinoludipe.blogspot.com).