The recent online video showing five secondary school girls from Lagos gleefully smoking certain narcotic substances called “Shisha” could be wrongly interpreted by many young people as the human imperative for freedom, exploration, and sometimes, youthful exuberance.
Young people are said to learn such behaviour deficits from peer groups and what they see in the creative and innovative industry, as well as the social media.
It is obvious that such transgression is an excessiveness that is totally strange to decent behaviour, and should not just merit a mere reprimand by way of suspension. More drastic measures should be taken to serve as a deterrent to others.
It is equally commendable that Lagos state has responded appropriately with a rehabilitation plan for these deviant young girls. One sincerely hopes that such a plan would involve their families to ensure that even after the programme organised by government ends, the teenagers do not go back to their old ways.
This is essential to contextualise the control of youthful energy. In sociology, the family is referred to as the basic unit of society. A family is first and foremost, a place of refuge. It’s a place that individuals feel secure because it is expected that love and care should be given by family members. That forms the values that shape the boundary for conduct and behaviour.
Family values and national development go hand in hand, and as the primary agent of socialisation, the family is duty-bound to imbibe norms and values imperative to the development of the nation. This speaks to the foundational ethics, philosophy and ethos of a people.
Every individual comes from the family which is the core fabric of society. Society begins to grow from the family. People with a good family upbringing are good assets to the society because they will certainly almost exhibit high morals in all facets of activities and endeavours.
The society is a reflection of family values and such values can make or mar the nation. A broken society is therefore, a reflection of broken families within that society. The aggregate of our national experience is such that we find behaviours that indicate huge moral deficit in our society. The moral deficit that we observe is exhibited on all fronts including some parents who are ordinarily supposed to be the guiding force.
If background checks are done on those five teens, it would not be surprising if most or all of them are from dysfunctional families. Recent occurrences in the country have revealed a sharp decline in family and moral values. Many youths, adults and adolescents are embracing anti-social behaviour which is causing a drastic change in the quality of relationships in family circles.
The degradation of family values is playing out in the social domain where we now have criminality and all manner of behaviour, especially among the younger generation. The challenges we are facing presuppose that the family is under threat in Nigeria. Parents are too busy trying to put food on the table and abdicating their responsibilities to house-helps and other domestic staff. The culture of bonding is getting very relaxed and in some cases, non-existent because of modernity.
Meaningful communication in the family hardly takes place, and when one finds an element of interaction, people are communicating more with electronic gadgets. Emotional security is lacking. There is hardly time to connect. It has been argued that these factors do not enhance protection and humanity in the family unit. They do not make people have a true sense of attachment and belonging. But when love and respect are shared, with the physical presence of family members, they go a long way in bringing emotional stability. That is a foundational issue that needs to be encouraged.
The society itself has evolved wrongly. Our collective value system as a society has failed us. In our society today, we are growing up with a population of people, the majority of whom have refused to transit from juveniles to adults. We have cross-dressers – young men dressing like women and vice versa.
Parents always expect their children to come out to be better than them but there is a failure of generational transmission of values to the children. Parenting is one thing, nurturing is another. If you are parenting and not providing the necessary nourishment in terms of moral values, the children grow up to be malnourished in values. Neglected children are now going to the street and adopting their own street values which they impose on society.
As a society, we are living a life of lies. The society has configured achievement negatively. One of the things that have turned us this way is the excessive quest for materialism: primitive accumulation of wealth has been given a pride of place. Parents live in opulence and cannot explain the sources of their wealth to their children who incidentally have an idea of what they earn. That feeling of entitlement begins to rub off on the children.
We live in an environment where there is success without hard work. The ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor is an issue. People with no visible means of livelihood are recognised and rewarded. Hence the growing desire to get rich quick and celebrate riches without questioning the sources. Youths on the street also want to get rich quick and get recognition.
We have a society that protects privileges. In other words, you are protected if you are privileged. The hegemonies that are being created, as a result, are not encouraging. The children of uniformed people mostly find themselves in the uniformed services; the same applies to the civil service; children in certain privileged classes get into certain privileged responsibilities. A society configured based on this kind of exclusiveness and distortion does not promote egalitarianism.
Naturally, the result is predictable. Family values that shape and transform nations are neglected, and national development is greatly impeded. Such problematic issues are already posing a threat to the family which also indicate the kind of tensions already present in the society: one that undermines national security and ultimately national development. There is a generational challenge in reconstructing our relationship with our children. If things continue this way, the shock of Shisha-smoking children in a viral video would be a tip of an iceberg.