A PHILOSOPHICAL APPRAISAL ON THE IGBO TRADITIONAL SYSTEM OF CHILD UPBRINGING, VIS-À-VIS THE CONTEMPORARY SYSTEM
There seems to be universal law of preservation and conservation in nature. Rock, seas, minerals, plants, animals and man; all endure because of this universal law of nature. For instance, animals of both higher and lower species that breach this natural law risk extinction, as the other animals will prey on them. Hence, all species, genus, genders, classes and families preserve their own. In man (the higher animal), this law is particularly fundamental because it is tied to the conservation of his own existence and physical well-being. The care of his offspring is a basic inclination natural to man and is a divine commission. Therefore, the first law of nature is self-preservation and the society preserves itself by ‘preserving’ and training the children, for without them, society is as good as dead. And as such, any society that negates or in any way impede the progress of child raising, likewise the family, is carrying in its womb the bomb for its destruction, for the growth of the society is founded on the growth of families. Parents in larger proportion owe to the society and indeed to mankind, the duty of raising up their children properly, because members of society work mutually to promote its progress and so safeguard the common good.1 Proper raising up of children is a way of maintaining the continued existence or preservation of human species. As a result of this, proper attention should be paid towards it, lest humankind is extinct.
The task of raising children in my own view is the greatest responsibility on earth, and therefore, should not be left for the parents alone. It should be a joint project that includes every person. In Igbo culture, child is referred to as ‘Our child’ – ‘Nwa anyi’, ‘Nwa ora’, and meaning community child. Therefore, child up bringing is neither the sole responsibility of the parents, the maids, nannies, nor the school teachers. Rather, it is a collective affair, since the child is: ‘Nwa ora’ – community child”2. In Igbo society, as well as in African communities, the birth of a child brings joy and celebration to the community. This celebration is community-based, not family-based. This shows that not only the immediate family of a child that thinks good of the child, the community as well thinks. Community, together with the parents preserves itself from extinction through importing good moral values, cultures and ethos into the child who will in turn do same to his/her on-coming progeny.
In searching deep into the dimensions of this topic, we shall do so under five chapters. Chapter one will treat the statement of the problem, the scope of the study, the purpose of the study and the significance of this research. Chapter two will concentrate on raising up children in the Igbo traditional society; then chapter three treats puberty rites and formal training of a child in the traditional Igbo society. In chapter four, we deal with raising up children in the contemporary society. Chapter five takes care of all the deliberations arrived at, in the chapter two, three and four, in the form of juxtaposition. Then, we summarize and conclude.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
People are identified through their culture, likewise any nation or people that compromises its culture or ways of life runs the risk of being misplaced with other nationalities. It is on this line of thought that the researcher envisages the future of some African tribes and nationalities, whose cultures had been adulterated, and cannot be distinctly distinguished from others. This has been as a result of the contact with the Western-American culture and civilization.
Frankly speaking, going through Igbo cultures, one would testify to the fact that many of these Igbo cultures are far better than those of the foreign. At least a review of Igbo traditional way of raising up children will say it all. But the Igbo people, after many years of colonialism and absorption of the foreign cultures, hook, line and sinker, now arrived at a conclusion with the whites that their ways of life are crude, barbaric and devilish. They (the Igbos) take the white’s cultures as superior, and oblivious of the truism that as environment and climate differ, so also do people and their culture differ. The culture one people cherishes, may not be cherished by the other. Both the Igbo traditional way of raising up children and the contemporary forms are good, but there should be a boundary where the influence of each on the other will stop.
1.3 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This research will cover all Igbo speaking regions, the people who share a common language known as ‘Igbo’ and a common culture known as ‘omenala’. These two features distinguish the Igbos from any other ethnic group in Nigeria. The Igbos, occupy an area of some 15, 800 square miles and are found between latitudes 5 to 7 degrees north and longitudes 6 to 8 degrees east. They lie in the tropics and as such have a tropical type of climate3
In 1982, the population of Igbo people was about 10.13 million people and they occupy the heart of southeast Nigeria, though some can also be found in the south like in Rivers, Etche, Asaba and Agbor. In this study, we shall approximately articulate the views of all these people on child upbringing in Igbo traditional way, and compare them with those of the present society.
1.4 THE PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
The emergence of Western cum American cultures had brought a great change in the cultures of the Africans especially the Igbos. These Western and American ways of life have permeated all the nooks and crannies of Igbo culture and ways of life. The Igbos are now ‘copy cats’. In this project therefore, we are using the method of raising up children as a case study. Through this, we will be able to evaluate the Igbo traditional method and the contemporary.
The culture of the Igbo is in the crossroad. They (Igbo) take themselves as inferiors to the white in all things. They now dress, laugh, speak, and train their children like the whites do. The women neither breast-feed their children, carry them on their back, sleep with their children nor inculcate in their children those ethoses which Igbos are known for. These corrosion and erosion of Igbo culture and tradition have made it completely difficult to distinguish Igbo culture from the White culture. The Igbos have lost their culture and are in a social mess. They are not truly Igbos; they are not truly Whites. In this regard therefore, something must be done and quickly too, to revive the bastardized old Igbo culture and the tradition of the Igbo nation, especially as they pertain raising up children.
1.5 THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The findings of this study will go a long way into enhancing the life of mankind as it involves imbibing other people’s cultures, just as the Africans specifically the Igbo people had done. This will make the Igbos to cherish with jealousy, their traditional culture and thereby stop imitating the White in all areas.
The government in its policy and adjustment to foreign cultures will then consider the culture of the individual nations under its jurisdiction, and this will open the eyes of the government concerning the positive sides of the peoples’ traditional culture. The church in her campaign for ecumenism will equally know how to mediate with peoples’ ways of life and the Church teachings. It will equally juxtapose and strike a balance between Igbo traditional culture and the contemporary from the stand point of raising up children.
1 S.C. Ilo, Child Upbringing, (Enugu: Asomog Press, 1994), p. 46.
3 A.E. Onyeocha, Family Apostolate in Igbo land, (Rome: Academia Alfonsianae, 1983), p. 9.