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Choices we have to make

By Helen Ovbiagele, Woman Editor
MADAM, madam,” cried a persistent voice as I was making my purchases in a market recently.  I turned and couldn’t quite place the owner of the voice who was now grinning amiably at me. “Good morning,” I greeted cautiously, trying to recall the young man’s face.

“Good morning, ma.  You don’t remember me?” “Er, I’m sorry.  Not really.”“Ma, we were neighbours in ……….. and I was working for your neighbour and friend, Mrs. …..”“Oh yes!  So, how are you?  And how’s my friend and her family?” “They must be fine, ma.  I’ve stopped working for her.”

“Really?  But you were with her for a long time.  Two or three years, perhaps.”
“Six years, ma.  I worked for her both in the house and in her shop.” “So, you’ve moved on to a better life?”
“Er, ma, I have no job at the moment.  I’m looking for work.” “Were you dismissed by my friend?” “No, ma.  I left by myself.” “But it must have been a good job for you if you stayed six years.  You always looked happy, I can remember.  Why did you leave without getting another job first?  That was risky, unless you’ve saved a lot of money to fall back on.”

“I have no savings ma, and as a married man with two children, I’m suffering at present.  But I just had to quit the job, ma, so that I can stay alive.

The pay was good ma, and there was surplus food, even to give my family, but madam’s wahala was too much.

She shouts and quarrels about everything, from morning till night; at home and in the shop.  At first I persevered, but after, going to work made my heart beat fast.  No peace of mind.  I began to take sleeping tablets every night so I can sleep, and then I started smoking so that I can stay cool during the day.

My elder brother said I was killing myself slowly with dangerous drugs.  Ma, I had to leave o.  I’m now  helping a trader to sell in this market, while I look for another job.

“The daily pay is very small, but at least I have peace of mind.  I left my madam three months ago, and I miss the money and the food, but my mind is at rest now and I don’t smoke again.” I asked him if he would go back to his former boss if I speak to her and she changes her attitude. “Alright ma, but madam can never change.

She treats people anyhow.  She can’t change.” My friend was nonchalant when I told her of my conversation with her former employee. “Thanks for telling me, but that man is a foolish man.  Maybe he’s born to suffer.

I was paying him double what I pay other staff because he’s hardworking.  Why should my shouting worry a person who needs to earn money? It’s normal for one to shout.  Why should I change because of him? He’s not serious. I do miss his hard work, but let him stay away and suffer.”

This attitude of thinking that people don’t have a choice but have to endure our maltreatment of them, which is very common in our country,  is what makes many people, particularly the young, make the wrong choices which could be detrimental to their lives and other people’s as well. Right from the home, we should endeavour, as parents, to be firm but reasonable in our relationship with our children and other young people around us.

Some parents believe that being a ‘terror’ instills fear into their wards and gets them to behave better.  They think that since their kids are totally dependent on them, they will have to endure all ill-treatment as they have nowhere else to go.

This may have worked long ago, but these days, children are more independent- minded, and aided by ‘sympathetic’ outsiders, they can make a choice to leave their parents and go live with those they feel understand them better.

This may lead them to assuming a life of sexual promiscuity and criminal activities, as they vow never to return home.  Yes, this can happen.  In our days, it would have been unthinkable. Most children were raised to be obedient and  to bring honour to the family, so, you couldn’t just walk out like that, no matter the condition at home.

To where?  There were no street children, and no locals slept under the bridge then, or in uncompleted buildings.  The world has changed.  Now, it’s important to treat fellow human beings decently and with respect in order to be rewarded with a decent society.  In the story above, we thank God that the man with the abusive employer chose an honest way to earn his living, and not delve into criminal activities, otherwise, his former boss and her family could have been the first to be attacked. Let’s hope he remains that way.

What about the school?  I don’t know if Psychology is still a part of the training of teachers, given the way some teachers destroy the self-confidence of their wards with vile and really hurtful remarks which stirs up hate and  rebellion in them.  Instead of the choice to do well at their studies and look forward to a bright future, the pupils choose to become truants and teacher batterers.

If this is combined with a horrible life at home, you can imagine the sort of children  being nurtured for the society. It’s no secret that every government we have in this country for quite some time now, has no respect for human life. If they did, we won’t be in the rot that we’re in now, where Education, Health, Transportation, Security, Social Services, are in shambles, and no-one seems to care.  The lack of accountability and responsibility has made the country lose respect, among other things.

With the bad health system, are we surprised that we catch easily whatever bug is flying around in the world, and there are fatal cases? With unemployment increasing every year as the number of graduates increases, any wonder that criminal activities are getting higher and out of control, and enlightened young people are now involved?

With extended closure of higher institutions and undergraduates roaming idly around, won’t there be unwanted pregnancies and likely abortion, or an increase in unmarried young girls?

These young people  have a choice to remain on the straight path and starve to death, or be bored to tears; or engage in criminal activities,  live an opulent life, and have unsafe ‘fun.’  It’s obvious what the choice of many would be. It’s the responsibility of parents, the school and the government to help our citizens make the right choices; otherwise we shall all suffer for the abuses and disrespect we get from these groups.


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