The Concerns for the next generation of Nigerians in South Africa-by HRM Eze Akuenwebe Emechebe
Following a mini colloquium we had last night in Pretoria, after a post graduate convocation for some of our Nigerian students amongst which included Attorney Ike Nwobu and others, at the University of Pretoria, I deemed it exigent to republish one of my earlier article in the Vol one of our Igbo heritage compendium.
Whether as displaced people or labor migrants, millions of Nigerians join the desperate, massive population movements across national boundaries on the African continent, United States of America and to Europe. In search of livelihood, they often face rejection and victimization within new nations struggling with declining economies and population pressure. Greater percentage of this first generation may return back home, to the country, but over time these numbers will begin to dwindle and the new countries become their adopted home. Over time through infusion and cultural assimilation, as resettled minority migrants, they may find out their literature, anthropology, history, cultural heritage, linguistic and wonderful civilization as revealed in our idioms, proverbs, aphorisms, libation, riddles, anecdotes and our values become dissipated and our identity lost.
As the first generation of Nigeria migrants in South Africa, we are faced with numerous challenges among which include our immigration legal status, unemployment, capital formation, xenophobic attacks, negative stereotype and perceptions, unfriendliness of the law enforcement authorities, unskilled and large number of uneducated community. It is hoped that our off springs would stride into the new South Africa political, social and economic mainstream in a more advantageous pedestal, as equal partners in the country’s development especially, those who’s one or two of the parents are South African citizens.
The attainment of these goals will be a function of how much we invest in today’s intellectual capital and skill acquisition on our future generation, and the extent to which we are evolving as a virile Nigeria community in South Africa. Going by the structures and distrust among us today, I strongly have by reservations if we are laying a good foundation for the future of our communal coherency, development and growth.
In a meeting with stake holders and leaders of our community in South Africa, Ambassador Sanni Mohammed, one of our former, Consul General in Johannesburg, made us understand, that one of the challenges faced by our government is how to inculcate our values and heritage to our off springs born in a foreign land, and make them appreciate their nationality, so when we may have gone, their interest to go back home and contribute to national development will be sustained.
The attainment and sustainability of the above lofty intentions will be a herculean task, as we failing in catching them young. Seeing that the age bracket of some of the eldest of our kids in this country is in the range of 17-20 years old, at which age they may have been imbibed and corrupted by the values and etiquette of the host country.
What are those values we think are being lost:
Nigeria is melting point of diverse African culture and tradition, a very religious country and with high moral values, whereas South Africa is Euro-Afrocentic, corrupted by negative western values and suspicious of religion, because it was alleged to have aided in the institutionalization of apartheid.
Also the structure and quality of our school system in preprimary, primary and post primary schools differ, and of higher academic standard, hence parents who sent their kids’ home to continue their education complained of their inability to cope. As for the tertiary institutions, they have the best here.
The laissez-faire family structure in South Africa infringes on our strong family ties and extended family system. Since they are away from home, these kids do not know their uncles, cousins, other relations, and to make local friends and mates, which exacerbate our intention to connect them back home. These are some of the factors that kept us in a continued home linkage, knowing where we come from.
The economic structure of franchising and lack of vibrancy of primary economy, with it attendant huge capital requirement will kill our spirit of self reliance, and ultra republicanism, that will subjugate our offsprings to subservience and penury, making it more difficult to create a future middle class among them, thereby limiting their capacity.
How do we reverse these trends?
The Nigeria consulate should as a matter of urgency, quicken the promised conversion of the old consulate building at Bolton Street in Rosebank, to Nigerian cultural centre, for exhibitions, teaching our languages, culture and heritage, going by what our formal indefatigable Consul General Hon. Okey Emuchay, said on assuming office.
We should set up a Nigeria unity school like other ethnic nationalities.
The harmonization of all our micro structures to build a mega institution for all Nigerians will help in bridging the distrust between the so called professionals and in the informal sectors.
Organizing an annual all Nigeria social and cultural carnival with the support of our missions, where our families will interact and know one another.
Parents should at intervals or annually send these kids home to fraternize with their kin and kiths, these memories will keep them bound to their root.
In comparative terms school fees are more expensive here than Nigeria. So sending your kids home for their secondary school education, and also for their understanding of our limitations, strength, and to acclimatize with our harsh climatic conditions and good infrastructures.
Also naming kids in vernacular, dressing in our native wears, teaching them vernacular languages and speaking with them our native language is very essential, in imbibing strong affinity with their root. This will also be applicable to our non- Nigerian spouses.
We should encourage our family participation in naming ceremonies, weddings, church services, kid’s special programs like birthdays.
We should also see to it that part of investments will be at home, as where your wealth is, there is your heart, and hence the kids will always seek to follow the family investments.
It is also of paramount importance we endeavor to promote Nigerian artifacts, music, movies, arts, regalia, and receptacles, subscribe to our Nigerian television stations for family viewing and tell your kids our home stories.
We should also take a lead from the characteristics and features of other well established nationals here, which will go a long way in sculpting us to greater height devoid of our usual ethnic divides at home.
I will conclude this piece with two Igbo maxims:
The son of the king will always return home, (Nwaeze ada efu na mba) and When a wealth reaches home, it tells who made it; (Aku ruo unu okwuo onye kpara ni)