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Hiya! Just a quick intro :) I lived in Nigeria for more than half of my life (so far) before moving to England and I have seen the best and the worst of both worlds. I was greatly inspired by the #OccupyNigeria protests and this blog is my way of #occupying. A lot of us compare African countries to the Western countries and I will mainly be talking about the positive things that I have observed and learnt in my few years of living here. Payme’s 2Cents is for all who dare to dream to see changes in their lifetime. It is for those who dream to see environments where 'helping' thrives. I will be giving my2cents worth on how we can work towards getting things to change for better. It would be great to know your opinions, so please leave comments. Remember to keep sharing posts that you enjoy. Follow @payme_my2cents. Thanks a lot for visiting!!! Enjoy my2cents :).

Thursday, 1 March 2012

To Nkem

 
            "Let your heart feel for the afflictions and distress of everyone." - George Washington

This is to the memory of my childhood friend ‘Nkem’ (not real name).

I have been quite heartbroken and sad this week; angry too. I have just been told about the death of one of my childhood friends. She passed on four years ago and knowing about this is extremely painful but knowing the cause of her death makes it even worse and this is my way of grieving for her. I think writing will make me feel temporarily better and I hope it does her memory justice. 

We were childhood friends (neighbours). She was sweet and extremely nice. She had three siblings while I have one. We lived in a compound with four flats and a boys-quarter with about five rooms. Her family had three of the rooms in the boys-quarters – one room served as the sitting room (the dad sometimes slept there), the second as the bedroom and the third was their kitchen.  They were poor. Her parents were into farming – mainly Cassava. They trekked for miles to and from their farms daily and on the weekends, Nkem and her siblings went with them. My parents were not rich but we were ‘OK’. There were three other families in the flats and at least one of the parents in these flats had white collar jobs. We all lived in the same compound but still appeared worlds apart. The kids in the flats went to private schools. Nkem and her siblings went to public schools. As kids, it never mattered, we ate together and played together. The flats were all bungalows so we had lots of space in the compound for all types of games – hide & seek, role-plays etc. Childhood was amazing. I remember my sister's 4th birthday – we all had pure unadulterated fun, the type that only kids could have.

Her family moved and we lost touch. I also later moved to England and that was it. I always remembered Nkem, her siblings and my other friends whenever I was reminiscing. They were no longer in my life but I loved the times we shared. I went on holiday to Nigeria some summers back and whilst in a car on a sandy road, we came across a beggar. The beggar was Nkem’s father. Dirtied from the dust and really dark from standing under the scotching sun for hours, he was a shadow of his former self. He could not even recognise me; I was too shocked to introduce myself. I was not myself for the rest of the day. I had many emotions stirring in me and I was so confused. One minute I was teary and the next I was angry. As a kid, I knew he had financial difficulties but he was a hard worker. How did life get beaten out of him so much? What could have happened?

Smart-phones have been so good as I am now back in contact with some of my childhood friends. One of them knew more about Nkem’s family and I broached the subject with her – I really wanted to know how things got so bad. My friend did not really know what happened but she knew he became a recluse and eventually abandoned his family. "Was he depressed? Did he develop any mental though not necessarily psychotic issues?" My friend could not say as these issues are not readily understood or discussed in Nigeria. Usually, a person is either downright ‘mad’ (i.e. walking the street naked) or completely sane – no in-between. He became a recluse and abandoned his family and that was that. Nkem’s mother was left to care for her children. Somehow, Nkem ended up cohabiting with a man. She got pregnant for him and then tried to have an abortion. The botched abortion ended her life. This happened four years ago. At the time of her death, I was 18 years old; Nkem must have been 19/20. She died; just like that.

Now, I will not try to make excuses for her choices neither will I judge her. I am not even in a position to do that; I had lost contact with her for years. However, memories do not disappear. I remember her being so peaceful as a child. Did she ever stand a chance? I know that there are children from extremely poor backgrounds who make it just as there are children from wealthy families who lived recklessly and ruined their lives. However, my point is how many are given the choice for a better future? This is the reality of so many children in Nigeria – poverty! A new UN report puts the level of poverty in Nigeria at 61% (I do not know how they come up with these numbers). This means that nearly 100million people out of about 160million live on less than a dollar ($1, £0.63, #150) a day. As you are reading this, you will most likely be part of the 60million that are not considered poor but you would most certainly know or be related to people who are. 

Usually girls like Nkem find themselves in harrowing situations due to their state of poverty. The parents had little or no money and had to work round the clock  in order to be able to survive. They had almost no time to nurture their children and they barely had enough to feed with, so the last things on their minds were clothes and schoolbooks. Male children usually end up on the streets while female children like Nkem meet 'a man'. A man that they believe can take care of them – they get fed, get clothes etc. In return, they end up either in long-term abusive relationships or in relationships where they are taken advantage of and immediately abandoned. Most of the ones that survive end up with children for different fathers. The trend of poverty continues as they have little or no education as well as means of survival. They long for better lives but do not know how to break the cycle.

I went to private schools from my primary education till I finished secondary school. Nkem and her siblings went to public schools. Private schools are seen as the most sensible means of getting good education for children in Nigeria (for parents who can afford it). Even in private schools, not all parents can afford to buy their children’s books not to talk of public school students. Most parents were willing but they simply had no means. Well in my ‘good’ private school, I do not remember being given any sexual education whatsoever. Actually, how many of us can remember receiving sex education either at home or at school? I do not mean a biology class. I mean a setting in which you got told about abstinence, a class where you were shown how a condom is used should you decide to be sexually active, a class where you were taught about how to handle relationships with the opposite sex. Well I cannot remember ever having one. I can only remember a biology class with a very easily embarrassed teacher. A lot of people have no access to the internet and satellite television. Our parents find talking to children about sex awkward as most see it as an indirect encouragement for a child to misbehave. Teenage girls who are curious about sex and proceed to ask questions about it are seen as wayward. So, the main method of learning has been through words of mouth – what we hear from friends; friends who are out experimenting with little or no knowledge of the dangers that they are exposing themselves to. Do the adults realise the negative effect their lack of openness is causing? Sex education needs to be taught in homes and at schools!

In a perfect world, female children will wait till they were married before having sex. Well, the world is not perfect! I am a Christian and personally, I am 100% against premarital sex but not everybody believes in that. Before the advent of technology, in the ‘better’ old days, pregnancy out of wedlock happened. Even in countries that teach abstinence and the use of contraceptives, there are and would always be girls who would get pregnant without being able to handle the responsibility. However, does this justify silence?  Imagine going for a walk in the woods. You have been there several times and you can find your way but you meet somebody who appears lost. The fellow asked for your help and you were quite helpful as you fully described the correct route to take without missing out any detail. Whilst explaining, you remember that you have a map with you. Truth is if you give the fellow the map, he/she might stop paying attention to your directions and just focus on finding the way with the map. Would you withhold the map? Is having him/her listen to you more important than the individual’s safety? It might not be as simple as that for some people but there is a chance that the fellow would listen. If not, having the map would  help them stay safe. Life is not to be toyed with. If one girl is saved through proper education about these issues, then it is extremely worthwhile to do so. I was informed that sexual education is given to youth corpers during their three weeks orientation at camps. This is great, however, why is it being done so late? By the time students graduate from the university, I am sure that most, including virgins already know what sex is all about and sadly it will be too late for some. Education helps people to make informed and sensible decisions. Adults need to stop being reckless with young people’s lives. Are girls who find themselves in trouble when they get pregnant without being able to handle the responsibility being sentenced to die? Do they stand a chance? Do they know their options? Do they know that abortion is not the only choice? Do they know enough about adoption? Are there support systems set up for the ones that want to keep their babies? If they tried to talk to their friends or the grownups around them, would they be judged, gossiped about or would they get real help? I am not talking about taking away the consequences or responsibilities that their actions bring; I am talking about making sure that a mistake does not end in eternal misery or death. 

I know that the government and our legal system have significant roles to play in these issues, however, I am not interested in discussing these roles right now. I am more interested in us - The Society. What are churches, mosques, schools, individuals etc. doing about these problems? Nigeria is a very religious country with extremely wealthy churches and mosques but yet majority of the people attending these places of worships are wallowing in poverty. I believe churches’ primary concerns should be about the welfare of their congregation; about their needs (spiritual, mental, physical and financial needs). However, it seems a lot are more interested in their properties and possessions than in the lives of their members. Even Jesus was interested in the bread that his followers ate. Prayer without works is dead! Where is the joy in a structurally beautiful place of worship filled with families who can barely survive and children with no education?

As an individual, when you see a struggling family, do you try to help? A lot of times, we fail each other and then weep when a soul is lost at which point it is already too late to do anything. I acknowledge the fact that we all have our own lives and our personal responsibilities but I believe we also have to start developing a charitable spirit towards outsiders (non-family members). It is true that if you offer to help some people, they might take offence as they would see you as being condescending. However, do all people in need think like that? In our locality, can we honestly say that we are unable to find someone who we can assist? It can be as little as buying bathroom slippers for the kids that you see walking around barefoot. Can you spare #100 to buy notebooks and a pen for that kid in your street that goes to school with no books? That might be the motivation he/she needs to perform better at school. Yes, the kids are not ours but this is one of the ways of improving the society we live in. Can you give your time to mentor the younger girls around you? If you have gone through abortion, giving up a child for adoption or even abstaining, your experiences, the reasons for making certain decisions, the outcomes and the consequences can be shared and these can really help deter younger ones from making the same mistakes as well as help motivate them to live right. It can save other girls like Nkem from seeking solace from the wrong people and places. Ladies, your decision to mentor a younger girl would most likely make the girl feel important and cared for. It is not all about money; time and efforts matter too. We need to be socially aware and learn to help the less privileged. If you have friends that are in trouble, before you turn it into a mini drama, STOP! THINK! A life could be at stake. Take their issues seriously and assist them in getting the right help. Nkem's death was preventable but sadly she lost her life. Help as many as you can to avoid these tragic losses. Save a life. One life is worth it. Extremely worth it!!!

THANK YOU to all the unsung heroes in Nigeria!!! The men and women who go out of their ways to help others simply out of the goodness of their hearts. The men and women who help the less privileged who cannot pay them back. The ones that the newspapers, magazines, radios and televisions do not broadcast. Thank you for keeping hope alive.

 "What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world, remains and is immortal." - Albert Pine

RIP Nkem 


@payme_my2cents







Image from Niagara Grief Center

20 comments:

Payme's Cents #OccupyingTheWorld :) said...

If you know of any charities in your area, please drop their contact details in the comments. Any kind of charity organisation - motherless babies homes, charities focused on education etc. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I love this article of yours and there are so many unanswered questions in Nigeria. Why do the rich find it difficult to support the poor? Why do the rich still feel comfortable with milking the poor? Recently I asked my father for one of his empty flats for one of my friends who was posted by NYSC to dat syd of the country and he denied. If a rich man can not give up an empty house for a year free to someone who needs shelter then it is a shame! There are charity organisations buh most are organised by people outside the country cos people in Nigeria barely have the time for non-profitable work(u know wot I mean). Brilliant one, maybe I'll let u know wen I finalise my plans #@pheyikeji

Aminah said...

A well written piece. Very touching. May her soul rest in peace. To add to your suggestions, i believe the Qur'an, the Bible n even sociology recognises d home as the first school. What r our parents doin? Don't u think our parents have a lot of work 2 do? I am alive today 2 write ds only by d grace of God. Education, feedin n shelter r d most important thngs for some parents. Won't d child grow up n 'go out' some day? Does d child even know how to handle men, talk to God?I believe our parents should be sensitized (thru PTA meetings, d media) first. Also, if thr's a way by which d government can include sex education in our curriculum especially at d secondary level, i think it'll help. Our religious institutions too may be of help. I'm actually writing a book n making some plans. Will let u know when everything is set. Thank u 4 d wake up call.

CHAUN-BOI said...

You took me on an emotional roller coaster ride.. Great!!

Kenny said...

Wow dis is touching.. Thank u for sharing dis..now u gonna be my role model

Anonymous said...

Love it! It puts on paper the silent thoughts of the average nigerian teenager/youth. Love it! More grease to your elbow...xxx

Anonymous said...

very good article, keep it up, its nice to read about the realities of this world.Ill be visiting this blog again, so keep posting.

Ayo said...

U ve done a great job,may God bless u more.we are lucky to ve u.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, "The rich become richer, and the poor become poorer". The issue of poverty is very dis-heartening and i wish something can really be done about it. It baffles me a lot that Nigeria is blessed with a lot of Natural resources, and yet, it's not being used for the uplifting of the country. For example, Nigeria has a lot of crude oil, instead of creating refineries so as to bring about more job opportunities and ease of fuel access, they decided to be selling it out, import it back, and then inflate the price. How will a family who is just trying to survive afford such commodity?
Secondly, I agree with you on the issue of Sex Education. Honestly, i don't remember being asked to sit down and told this is this, and this is how you can go about this until i got to America where they will teach you about sex education wide open. Prior to this, i only learnt about sex education through side talks or i just try to ask my aunty considering the fact that she was a nurse. A lot of parents/adults think that teaching a child about sex education means you are making sex seem okay for them at a very tender age. Now, my question is, Do this parents know if their children are already sexually active?? I feel the more you hide it, the more curious they become and in this case, they may go ahead and try it out without no form of protection such as condom. etc. Educating them justifies a parent on their part because it is good to have an idea on issues like this so as to prevent STI's, Unwanted Pregnancies, etc.
Thirdly, every little help you offer to someone counts because one or two people will always remember your kindness towards them. With the little i have, i try to help people because they can in turn do the same for me.
Well, this was a very nice post and i pray "Nkem" continues to rest in peace.
Missy

Anonymous said...

I have been following your write-ups right from the onset! It's obviously getting deeper and stronger. I concur with every bit of this write up. It's amazing! You just took us to the smallest bit of the "Nigerian government" which is the family. Right from the definition of the family in primary schools, we've been made to know that your family comprises of the father, mother and Children. In other words, these are the set of people we are to be responsible for. Not until the day an average Nigerian start to see everyone has his or her family, we shouldn't expect a change!!! I'm going to stop writing by challenging you to start your own or join a non governmental organisation. In that regards, we can bring all these paper work to reality! It's simply a call to SERVICE. God bless you...

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. -Dalai Lama

Abiola said...

This is spot on and I especially agree with the points you made about the responsibility of churches and individuals. As Christian, we have been called to provide for the needy and be generous to those who cannot repay us, and yet I see the exact opposite happening, some a lot worse than others. People preoccupied with themselves and how they look, and not with their next door neighbour's welfare. More than once, I have heard that despite all the hunger etc in this world, there is enough food to feed everyone. The mental health issue I think is so true as well, we sweep it under the rug and say its the devil's work and people who are not healed are told they dont have enough faith which probably does not help their mental state...we must tread carefully or we will have a lot to answer to, if this continues.

Anonymous said...

Lovely write up Payme. This is so deep and got me thinking. More grace to ur elbow!

Honey said...

This is an amazing piece of writing. Held my attention through out. The story of Nkem is a sad one, one that is so common in our society. May God help us all to put others before ourselves as Jesus did!

emma said...

What a wonderful piece...just wish nigeria can borrow a leaf from countries when good policies work.
merit of taking pot

Anonymous said...

uhhn, what a way for ur friend to have ended it all, poverty, ignorance,or what again? anyway it's all over,may her soul rest in peace, but we should all learn one or two lessons from this write up,above all be ur brother's keeper.

Anonymous said...

very touching........

N said...

I came here consequent upon our #marriage yarns.....

The problems of Nigeria are myriad and the solutions will take all sorts.

The start-up point can be anywhere in my opinion and should be. But one of the greatest failures of the Nigerian state in my opinion is the failure of parenting. When parents cede their authority to places like schools, churches and government, all of which are morally bankrupt and hiding under a cloak of legitimacy to perpetuate evil, stuff results that are nightmarish.

I am eternally grateful to my dad who got an aunt who is a nurse to have that talk with us very early (at the time, my sister was in secondary school,i was still in primary) and it stuck. He was non-relenting, buying books titled 'a teenager asks about sex' and asking for essays on them to ensure we had read them.

I still remember being punished by a teacher in school for having those books and refusing to serve the punishment becos they had been bought by my father and same teacher turning around and wanting to abuse the relationship by being amorous towards me. Knowing what I did, I fled and made more noise than was necessary.

Our redemption and salvation as a people may not lie in the numerous churches (necessary as we may seem to think they are) but in truthful self-analysis and an end to BS (bull****) and doing the needful as responsible parents, children, workers, citizens or whatever it is we are in this nation.

Very touching....iLike the passion!

jadecarter01 said...

May her soul RIP. Dere are thousands of aimilar cases out dere. Awareness is key. God help and enable us to do the best we can to help those in need.

Oscar said...

I come in from the angle of people not being charitable enough. There are different schools of thought as touching that. We are in a society that always has this funny idea about helping others. There is this Yoruba adage that translates as 'one covering his yam and eating without making much noise if one is lucky to have a bountiful harvest'. That I think takes its origin from our belief in folks who do not have harming those who have. I served in a village school and there's no how you won't feel for those folks. Situations like Nkem's call for our love and support. If one should be discouraged by how some of them misbehave despite our best efforts, we would render no help. I remember having to help a neighbour's daughter procure a form during my university days. She screwed everything up by getting pregnant. I was initially discouraged to do nothing of such for anyone but I find myself doing it over and over. We must learn 1 thing, love conquers all and with love in our hearts, we shall help the 'Nkems' of this world. Big up Payme, getting better with each post

smashsaint said...

Am so much inspired by your touching story and analysis of the situation we find ourselves in. I must tell you that our youths today hardly get any form of sexual education besides some biology class which just touches the surface and elementary reproduction...our parents only tell us what is right and wrong and we figure out the rests ourselves. More attention should be given to sex education especially in our homes, schools; we owe our youths the responsibility to avoid a future we least expect!