A child starts as early as possible to internalize his environment, which includes sounds and gestures emanating from his immediate environment; in this case, his home. For Nigerians living in the diaspora, the enabling environment their children need to internalize the Nigerian language and culture is non-existence and should therefore be created by the parents. But does every Nigerian parent in the diaspora have what it takes to create this enabling environment?
One of the major problems facing diaspora Nigerians today is that of imbibing their culture, especially the Nigerian languages, into their children. Of all the ethnic groups among Nigerians in the diaspora, Ndiigbo, it seems, are the worst hit by this problem. Most times, parents are under pressure to make ends meet. They get too busy during the week, leaving their children in the hands of day-care centres or other such institutions within the system. Another reason is that most parents prefer to use the English language at home, so the child gets used to the sound of the English language from day one. Why is it that Asians, for instance, do not have this kind of problem? Of course the reason is not far-fetched as it is simply because they stick to their native language all the time; and, as soon a baby is born into the family, he or she automatically tows in line. When a child learns his or her native language, it is much easier to understand the other aspects of the culture. The knowledge of the language makes him think and respond in a certain way peculiar to the culture.
It has been proved that children of migrants who have a good background of their culture of origin integrate to a new culture better than those who don’t. It is based on this fact that the government of Finland enacted a policy that primary school children who have a mother tongue other than Finnish have the right to be taught their mother tongue in school. In the city of Helsinki, for instance, if you can find four children of Yoruba descent, they are automatically entitled to a Yoruba language class, as long as a qualified teacher of the language can be found. Many foreign nationals in Finland with a large population, for instance, the Somali, have language teachers to make a living while at the same time perpetuating their culture.
Many Nigerian children in the diaspora today can be labelled as a lost generation. Such children have an identity problem. The psychological burden borne by these unfortunate children is capable of leading them to a host of negative attitudes. This problem is a very serious one. Every Nigerian parent should make out time to teach his or her children our language. It is not easy for some parents I know. Such parents should seek help from other Nigerians in their community. The best approach will be that of a collective effort through ethnic/national organizations. Unfortunately, we form ethnic and national organizations for the wrong reasons. The problem of raising our children should take priority. I suggest that our women, in our diaspora communities that are lucky to have a large population of Naija women, should take up this challenge, since the men often end up in personality conflicts in our organizations.
In Finland, for instance, the Igbo community in recognition of this problem resorted to a collective effort. Up to 75% of Nigerians resident in Finland are married to Finnish women. Their offspring will have a serious identity problem if their identity is not defined as early as possible. For this reason, the Igbo Union Finland took the bull by the horns by searching for the black goat while the sun is still shining. As this video shows, they have planted this seed, and it is bound to bear fruits. I sincerely hope that this will motivate others to follow.