It Takes a Supportive Community to Raise a Child - An Alternative Route for Eritrean Parents
|School Children in Asmara|
It Takes a Supportive Community to Raise a Child - An Alternative Route for Eritrean Parents in the Diaspora
Abrahaley Habte – Asmara
The boy is about 9 years old. He is a primary school child at an international school in Asmara, Eritrea. He comes forward and speaks in English to a group of children attending a weekly poetry recital, drama performance and other similar activities, which the school calls Assembly.
“When I do something wrong my grandmother tells me off,” he says. Then, he reverts to Tigrigna, his mother tongue, and repeats a Tigrigna proverb, which, he says, his grandma quotes at him when he copies the misbehaviors of his friends: “‘If you follow a donkey, you learn to fart like one.’”
In a similar fashion, a girl (about the same age and the boy’s classmate) comes to the stage and describes how her mother, quoting another Tigrigna proverb corrects her (the child’s) misbehavior: “If a fool is hardened and a sheep has strayed, none of them comes to their senses.”
A third child relates how his granddad advises him. My granddad tells me, the child says: “Speak the truth and lie on a railway track.” The implied meaning, which the children are made not to miss, is that they will come to no harm or ‘the truth will set you free.’ That is how the Tigrigna stress and teach their kids of the importance of telling the truth.
Through their recitals of Tigrigna proverbs and sayings, the speakers show how their extended families and their communities mold them into responsible citizens. One notices from the examples of proverbs they recite, the community sensitizes and warns them of the dangers of peer pressure, stubbornness, honesty, and other values.
Eritreans parents (or for that matter parents from any other nationality) in the cannot take for granted such support unless they have a very strong community that supports their culture and values. In fact, many Africans in the Diaspora worry so much about their children’s upbringing that it is a hot issue of discussion among many.
A Somali living in Europe worries about problems facing Somali Diaspora parents raising kids in the West. The quote below could be from an Eritrean living in Europe or America. The Eritrean parents’ concerns about the future of their children cannot be very different from the Somalis’ or any other African parent in the Diaspora. One can safely put any other Eritrean language in the place of Somali without distorting the message.
As a Somali [Eritrean] living abroad, I often wonder what the future holds for us. Will Somali [Eritrean] communities form the tight knit bonds that hold cultures together as is often the case for East Indians and Chinese? Or will we completely assimilate into our host countries, adopting the dominant beliefs and value systems? It is a question we need to be asking ourselves, especially as many Somalis [Eritreans] begin to have families and settle down in the West. The stark reality is that the children of the next generation will be more English, Dutch, American, Canadian, or Australian (among many others) than Somali [Eritrean]. It is highly unlikely that these children will be able to speak Somali [Tigrigna or another Eritrean language] well, let alone understand the deep poetry and music of our rich culture. (http://www.mudugmedia.com/view.php?id=1101)
Rightly, Eritreans in the Diaspora see this problem to be serious enough for them to take some measures. Some send their children to Eritrea to the surprise of many to live with their relatives before they take them back to the West.
What drives Diaspora parents (Eritrean or other) to take such drastic measures?Diaspora Africans (which include Eritrean parents) want their children reared in Africa because they find the Western influences at odds with their African culture. They see Western influence as unhealthy, leading their children astray, and finally jeopardizing their future. They notice their children led off course by peers that are driven by selfish interests and disregard for the wellbeing of others.
These parents see gangs, drugs, violence, the media and other influences wreaking havoc in their communities, and shatter the lives of youngsters. Noting that the cultures they were brought up in are still free of such destructive influences, they desire their children raised in them where members do their best to guarantee the safety and wellbeing of the community. For example, Eritrean Diaspora parents realize that their culture raises children to return money lost and found to the police, who, in turn, return to its rightful owner. This, they note, is in stark contrast to Western culture which openly preaches greed. Eritrean parents also remember that their community back home, where adults reprimanded the young for such innocent-looking practices as smoking and similar acts, would help them raise their kids to be responsible citizens. These Diaspora parents, therefore, despite the advantages of raising children in the
West, decide to take their children away to Africa. But the solution is not as straight-ward as it looks to many Diaspora parents and many do not accept it as a viable solution to the problem. They believe that parents can raise responsible and morally sound children anywhere in the world. Such parents, logically, are against sending their children to Africa. Here is a comment from a Cameroonian. This also could have come from the pen of an Eritrean in the Diaspora.
“Personally, I am for the most part against the idea of sending children away from their parents. This foolproof idea of sending children to Cameroon because supposedly they will get better education, better moral values, and they will know where they come from (as if there is no other way of going about it) is a lie. A child can and will get a good education and even better in most western countries if only the parents will participate in the process.” (http://thinkbrigade.org/africa/diaspora-children-sent-back-to-africa/index.html)
One reason why Diaspora parents do not want to send their children back to Africa is because they think their children may not get quality education in Africa. They believe Western education to be superior to the education of their home countries.
Obviously, this is one of the most serious obstacles Diaspora parents overcome if they succeed in sending their children to Africa. In other words, they first solve the problem of securing quality education for their kids back in Africa.
Dr. Nicoline Ambe, a special education teacher in the United States, has to say this about the issue:
“This is such a complex, emotional and deeply personal issue for so many families that it won’t be fair to give an abbreviated view on it. For my personal situation, I would never make such a choice for my own children. America has the best schools in the world, so I want them exposed to the curriculum fully and early.” (http://thinkbrigade.org/africa/diaspora-children-sent-back-to-africa/index.html)
Another group of parents, who send their children back to Africa, however, has some good reasons for sending their kids to Africa. For this group, partly money plays a part in their decision.
“My decision … was, I would say, purely for educational reasons – the academic, emotional and psychological adjustment that comes from a sense of self that’s so lacking in African children brought up in the west. There was no way I could afford to send my children to the equivalent of the International School they attend in Yaoundé …. It still costs quite a lot, but not as much as the £30,000 (US $47,000) per child I would’ve forked out in the UK.” (http://thinkbrigade.org/africa/diaspora-children-sent-back-to-africa/index.html)
Similarly, Eritrean parents are on a dilemma on this issue. They would like to know the advantages and disadvantages of sending their children to Eritrea. They want to find out what they would lose by sending them back to Asmara.
Quality education (among other reasons) is what comes to their mind first. Quality of education in developing countries cannot be as good as in the West though in some schools in the US could be worse than some schools in the developing world. However, such quality education doesn’t come free. It is very expensive, which may influence Eritrean Diaspora parents to take the decision to send their children home.
In any case, this is not an easy decision to make. And it is up to every Eritrean parent with school age children to decide.
Obviously, the most satisfying solution should have the best of the two worlds: the East and the West. In other words, the solution must offer the West’s quality curriculum and Eritrea’s supportive and community based and community-focused culture. And this can only be offered in Eritrea.
One issue Eritrean parents who arrive at such a conclusion should not worry about is schools. Asmara has two international schools, which use American and the English National Curriculum. These schools offer their services to students using English both as a means of communication and a language of instruction. It is obvious these schools do not offer a lot of choice, and parents from the Diaspora might find their services limited. However, they do offer educational services, which are relatively good and have satisfied Diaspora parents that have sent their children there.
Not everything a scholar knows he learned from his teacher – Barbados.
A person is a person because of other persons – Lesotho
These children have at least one advantage – they are being raised not learn
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