Uniforms are a wonderful thing! They mean the kids never have to compete with the latest fashions at school. I asked our four “What is something starting with “U” that you all find different or unique in Australia compared with Nigeria. The answer came back in unison: “UNIFORMS!”
I thought this was odd. I knew they wore uniforms in Nigeria, so what was different?
Miss O 2: “We didn’t have different uniforms, we wore the same thing all year.”
This makes sense, as they don’t have the seasonal changes we have here in Australia. We have summer and winter uniforms and I remember when I was at school there were very strict rules around when you changed from one uniform to another! Here in Melbourne, given our weather can be rather changeable, there is a couple of weeks of flexibility, but even then I have seen kids wearing summer uniform to school in the middle of winter so I’m not sure all the schools are as strict as “in the old days”.
Here the boys wear shorts in summer and long pants in winter.
Miss O 2 has a lovely gingham school dress which she refuses to wear (I think she’s worn it twice) because she MUCH prefers the culottes (or skort) which means she looks like she is wearing a skirt but can do all the tomboy things without anyone seeing her pants.
Miss O 1 is in Year 12 so she now wears “casual” (sadly for Mum and Dad’s wallets).
The photo above was taken in July 2011. None of them look anything like that any more! Mr O 1, the older of the two boys, is now taller than I and almost as tall as Dad. What a growth spurt in 20 months!
Those are the winter uniforms. In summer of course the jackets and jumpers hardly see the light of day, the girls have dresses (or culottes for the primary ones) and the boys wear shorts.
Then there are sports uniforms for sports days.
I’ve sat on this article for a few weeks. Will I publish? Won’t I publish? Should I, shouldn’t I, sort of carry on.
Anyone my age will recall that corporal punishment was still the norm when we were young. The norm for our parents and grandparents generation. I used to be smacked with a three foot carpenter’s ruler or my father’s razor strop.
In Nigeria, corporal punishment is still the norm. Of course, when my family arrived here, they had to learn a whole new discipline methodology. This means not just Dad, but the children too.
I once watched a video about African parents raising their children in Australia and the difficulties they experience with the change required in discipline. Despite hunting for that video tonight, I can’t find it. It was very good. If anyone knows of it, please send me the link, as I would like to include it. The mother spoke of the struggles. The children, not understanding the differences, started to run amok and the parents were at a loss to control them. Kids would come home and say “You can’t tell me what to do, I can leave home in Australia!” This would be unheard of in most African countries. Dad’s relatives are always stunned he can’t “beat” the children here!
While I couldn’t find the video, I did find this (emphasis added):
Our children would then be able to see some kind of consistency between the rules implemented at home and those enforced at school or in the larger society. If we insist on doing otherwise, there are or may always be consequences. For example, instead of using corporal punishment as a disciplinary method as is practiced back home by some families, one needs to seek an alternative approach that is encouraged in the Diaspora. A couple of months ago as a follow-up to our discussions on the immigrant experience in the United States with some mothers in Maryland, I listened to one woman refer to her children as pirates, good for nothing idiots, and terrorists terms condoned in Cameroon, my country of origin, and even regarded as a display of maternal affection or endearment depending on the context of usage. I wondered what would have happened to this young mother and her family, if the four, six, and eight-year-old children had picked up the phone and called a social worker, or an American neighbor. Language like this is common usage in Cameroon, no doubt; however, in the Diaspora such language is not condoned and may be interpreted as a form of abuse. Such communication patterns have jeopardized the lives and/or welfare of several African immigrants in the Maryland and Washington D.C. areas as the participants I interviewed convey. Although they seemed frustrated about this, they have somewhat accepted this as a new reality within their community.
For those who may be geography challenged, it takes a LONG time to get anywhere from Australia, other than to New Zealand! Yet most Australians travel, unlike some other countries. Look at the map – we are a long way from most other countries!
In the 12 months to June 2010, 6.8 million overseas trips were made by Australians, up from 2.1 million two decades earlier. In per capita terms, this was the equivalent to 31 trips overseas for every 100 Australian residents in 2009-10, up from 12 trips per 100 residents in 1989-90.
I’ve just stolen a song title, I know. Yet it is true. We ARE the world.
Earlier in the week, Mr O was very upset at something that had happened “back home”. During the same week, I noticed a shocking news story about pack rapes in France. Then there was the 14 year-old shot in Pakistan. The disaster that is Syria continues, seemingly unabated.
We are the world.
There are certain things we should raise our voices about. Things we should say loudly, clearly. We are the world. It is not just about solving poverty, it is about caring for our fellow man, about raising global awareness of atrocities and calling for change. We should be SHAMING the countries into action. Yes, I know, ”shame” is a hot word in Australia lately: let’s use it constructively for a change.
While both Syria and the case of Malala Yousufzai are receiving wide-spread media coverage, the other issues mentioned above less so.
In a case that has shocked France and cast a light on a culture of youth sexual violence, two women now in their 20s said that as teenagers they had endured months of almost daily rapes by scores of men in Fontenay-sous-Bois, outside Paris. The case is seen as the tip of the iceberg of the wider problem of gang rapes by youths on poor housing estates.
After a four-week trial, four of the accused were found guilty of taking part in gang rapes, but 10 were acquitted. Those found guilty were handed sentences that ranged from a suspended sentence of three years to one year in prison. Only one man returned to prison after the verdict because of time already served on remand.
There really has been little outrage, or little that I have noticed. Even so, there are many more articles (see related, below) on this than the Nigerian case I am leading up to. France, of course, is considered a first world country. We don’t like to stick our noses into the business of other first world countries, do we? This is FRANCE for goodness sake, a civilised nation. Or is it? In some respects, this ties into my previous article on sexism. When women aren’t considered equal, it is OK to rape them. There is coverage, just little condemnation. We should be making damn sure France is aware this isn’t acceptable! Where is the international pressure?
Last night Mr O and I were discussing news from back home in Nigeria and the subject of measles came up.
“Measles doesn’t kill anyone”, I blithely announced in my classic first world ignorance.
“Measles kills lots of children in Nigeria”, Mr O responded, looking at me in surprise at my ignorance and the fact we don’t have a measles problem in Australia.
Learning time for us both. Why does a childhood virus kill in one location and not in another? Would our kids be more susceptible if they contracted the virus here, I wondered? Miss O 1 is adament they have all been vaccinated, so that is a relief!
Research time. I remember being a kid – everyone got measles and I didn’t know of anyone who died.
To summarise everything we read, Australia has had one measles related death since 1995. We have been vaccinating since 1971.
One UN report I read spoke of 213,000 children in African countries dying in one year. Vaccination costs $1 per child and has dramatically reduced deaths.
Amnesty International have released their Annual Report 2012. It seems some people think about Amnesty in much the same way some people think about the United Nations: both organisations are ignored by many. Both organisations give us a look at the world in which we live: sometimes we prefer not to know. It isn’t us, so we turn a blind eye. We can’t actually change much of what is reported, sadly, so is there any point in reading about what we cannot change? I believe there is a point. That point is enabling us to be mindful of the backgrounds of those we meet in life who are from other lands, to be a little more compassionate and respectful of their feelings about their homeland.
Some time ago, I wrote “Watching your homeland crumble“, an article that didn’t receive a lot of views. It was a painful article, about a country many people prefer to just joke about in the context of email scams. I know this. Yet I also know the people. Not the corrupt officials lining their pockets: I know the people wanting a future for their children, wanting fresh tap water to drink, wanting the electricity to be reliable. Wanting a normal life, a life most of us take for granted.
Nigeria is crumbling. The fact is painful for my husband and painful for quite some of our regular readers who were either born in Nigeria or have one or both parents born in Nigeria. Painful for Nigerian friends here.