Setting the foundation right
I was chatting with a friend this week on Facebook who shared a goal of his that resonated so well and appealed to me. I am sure it would be the samefor hundreds of other thoughtful parentsout there who areinvestingso much in their children’s education.
At the age of 40, he is about to graduate with a second tertiary qualification. He has done two separate courses so far. His eldest child is already at tertiary level; a second at the University of the South Pacific’s Emalus campus; and still a third is at one of the country’s top senior high schools.
He was quite candid. “I am only doing it because I want to challenge my children to go further in their studies.
“I don’t want them to think that high school is the highest they can get. I think I have done what I can and they can now see where I am coming from. I still help with their assignments whenever I can, despite the distance that separates us, thanks to the Internet.
“I don’t have a fancy house or car but I am investing in their future so that they in turn might be able to plan their own future and make the best of it.”
At least that is how I can best paraphrase his thoughts. But the above probably summarises most fathers and mother’s dreams for their children.
He told me last year the family managed to meet the full costs of the first year of their eldest daughter’s tertiary level education with very little family income earned primarily through his hardworking wife while he concentrated on his studies.Maybe it is a bit unfair to saythat only his wife is the breadwinner. As a responsible father that he is, during his little spare time at university, he juggles studies with part-time work in order to try and help supplement the family income. Such is an example ofa good father who will not justescape one of his traditional roles as provider of the family. Far too many kids are being left these days in Port Vila and Luganville to fend for themselves because either one parent is not supportive enough of the other, or have split up because of some matrimonial issues—exposing their children to harsh realities of today at a very early age.
However what is more interesting is my friend comes from a background of those who might consider themselves “push-outs”, as opposed to “drop-outs” of the country’s education system. The latter, many bemoan, does have some negative connotations and implies failure, which is a fallacy at best. And I agree entirely. The 5000-plus children who get pushed out every year are not necessarily failures. The system just cannot adequately provide for all of them. Asad reality indeed, and what a waste of the country’s most valuable resource,who could become very useful in Vanuatu’sfuture.
This is not an issueto be taken lightly by policy makers, who unfortunatelyare continuing their political point-scoring game without an end in sight. As the years roll on and less and less opportunities become tenable, it should strike a chord within us that something drastic has got to be done sooner rather than later because as sure as the sun rises tomorrow, you can also be sure that a time bomb is slowly ticking away.
There are already hundreds of children— many grown-ups, within the two main urban centres and their surrounding residential areas who basically have no connections to their families or islands. If you ask them where they come from, they maytell you the name of their parents’ island(s) but if you ask them further to speaktheir language as a simpleidentity test,they will fail big time. To me that is already a great loss and the older they get, the greater a generational gap is created that may never be bridged unless parents realised the dynamics of the world around them and help them have a better experience of childhood, adolescence and teenage life that a ni-Vanuatu fully deserves.
We’ve heard so much about the unnecessary killings that have taken place last year and early this year in Freshwota. These incidents will continue to pop up —challenging the communities, as urbanisation rates continue their upward trend.
It is also good to know however, that the community leaders of Freshwota are not idly standing by and allowing the situation to benumb their good sense of judgement further as they try their best to find solutions. They have now come up with an idea of creatingbye-laws that would help them govern the community of Freshwota better. One would hope they have asked themselves all the appropriate questions and are addressing the root causes — not just treating the symptoms from the outside. Examples abound of places where man-made laws, irrespective of how tough they might be, cannot get humansfully under control. It has to at least have its roots from the very beginning—when two people first decided to start the process of building a relationship.
It saddened me recently to learn about the fatal shooting that happened in North Efate involving two boys. I bet they must have been very close pals. It raises the question what role their parents or guardiansplayed leading to the shooting.
According to latest reports, the Pacific is on the verge of hitting the 10 million mark in terms of its population size and Vanuatu is among leading countries with high population growth rates—lying just behind Solomon Islands. What these figures should be telling us is that, the basic fabric of many of our communities will be seriously challenged and only those who have their foundations firmly rooted in their strong social and cultural ties, with the help of the Founder of all human relationships might navigate it better.
I read a news story recently about a stampede by wild elephants in India where several of them including a very young one, took to the streets and attacked both people and animals. One man was killed in the process. The sight was dreadful to say the least, but I took it to be one of those off beat bizarre happenings.
But then I learned again this week that certain areas of Africa are actually menaced by gangs of delinquent juvenile elephants, which put people’s lives at great risk.Would you be surprised to know that what researchers are finding out is that the elephants’ anti-social behaviour is on the rise, especially among the young elephants because their herd structures have been broken by culling, hunting and relocation of family members? When the older elephants are removed, the young guys do not have good role models so they start forming street ‘corner gangs’, just like young men do when they don’t have strong family ties.
I’ve even learned that when they go raiding in the villages, it can mean a lot of disaster. They’veparticularly picked on rhinos in the neighbourhood—goring and trampling them to death.
It should come as no surprise, really,that thewise counsels for establishing strong and stable family units, with strong mother and father figures setting the example, is just as important for elephants as it is for people.
In the little anecdote of my friend’s personal experience I have tried to point out this important element of our family relations that we should never let go of. Parents have important roles to play in bringing up their children in such a way that they become fully mature and able to look after themselves and their communities. Neglecting them at an early age for whatever reason will only lead to more strain on the basic structures that determine our very existence as a family, community and nation.
Traditionally we’ve come from very closely-knit tribes and clans where everybody belonged and nobody was left to fend for themselves alone. Children were raised in homes where they once dined and could bunk up with their friends in almost any of the houses in the village. Even those who might have missed one of their parents through death or illness were still able to depend on their extended families for support, encouragement and basic survival needs until they were fully grown up.
Parents have a real obligation to raise their children in the best manner possible—teaching them to observe all the values that are important fornot only their personal sustenance and survival but also ensuring their vital connections to their villages and tribes and the people around them remain intact.
There’s no doubt much have changed—and rapidly. Fast-forward to 2011, with the influence of the money economy and the move towards materialism and wealth, there is real danger that these values would disappear quickly into oblivion if parents do not take the time to impart them especially during children’s formative years—the most significant period of a child’s upbringing.