Friday, 9 December 2011

Pre- departure reflection

A pre-departure reflection:

Nigeria’s greatest asset is not its oil but its people and to them I would like to pay the following tribute by acknowledging what they have taught me:

· The importance of every day greetings and courtesies in forming and maintaining good personal relationships;

      · That if you do not have, don’t worry about it – improvise or just do without – you’ll live!

· Humility – the humility that believes that you will cope with life’s challenges – that God will provide, and if he does not, it will be for a reason;

· Not to winge and moan about your lot – there are people worse off especially here;

· That formal education is not the complete answer to your life chances – that there are many skilled people even amongst the illiterate poor who have remarkable talents that are under-appreciated.

· That traditional society lies just beneath the surface and will occasionally erupt through to reveal a completely different set of mores, beliefs and customs that may be at odds with ‘recognised’ practices and with one’s own perceptions of reality. This is a bit disconcerting to sat the least, as with ritualistic killings, but has made me think and reappraise my own position as a westerner coming here to introduce what we perceive to be ‘better ways’ .
      I still find it hard to believe that there are people here who believe that, if you pick up money dropped on the street, you will turn into a yam!

· That women in Africa work extremely hard – far harder than most men – and in our terms get a raw deal – they deserve our respect for their resilience.

· The extent to which corruption of all sorts impacts negatively on the poor who ultimately have to bear the load;

· Being depressed is something of a luxury that the poor can’t afford;

· The extent to which some of those with power and influence couldn’t give a damn about ordinary citizens , have no conscience about malpractice and will rip them off whenever possible, often pocketing obscene amounts of money in the process.

· That in spite of the above, people generally just get on with their lives as best they can and hope that better leaders will emerge eventually.

· That what truly matters is people and values – not possessions or power or status. I have tried in all the schools and colleges I have been to, to make students and teachers appreciate how important the job of a teacher is to the future of their country, always remembering the young girl who said to me that ‘I love Nigeria, but Nigeria does not love me!’

For me, I will take away many memories and I feel as though I have been changed as a person through my experiences and by my acquaintances – hopefully for the better. Returning to the UK at Christmas with all the excess and nonsense is going to be a mighty challenge - one I am not looking forward to but I guess I have got to confront – without offending family and friends in the process. How do I explain to them a position which is outside their terms of reference without coming across as moralising, patronising, a kill-joy, holier-than thou?

May be Funmi is right – perhaps I should just stay here – at least until its all over!!

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