My homeschooling journey began in June 2013 after my son’s classmate was kidnapped. He was two at the time and his mother (Canadian expat) had travelled leaving him at home with her own mother, nanny, driver etc. Not sure if the father was also there. Life continued as normal until the nanny mentioned to the grandmother that the toddler had a playdate to attend and off she went with the toddler and the driver. Then the grandmother received a ransom demand for about 250,000 USD. My most recent security update suggests that more than half of all kidnappings in Africa happen in Nigeria and that based on the 2013 kidnappings, Niger Delta is the main hotspot followed by Lagos where the risk remains high. Most kidnappings in Lagos are inside jobs facilitated by trusted domestic staff or friends but they can be completely random.
When I found out about the classmate, I started by quitting my job. I wasn’t thinking about homeschooling then, just wanted to be able to move with my kids and not be too reliant on staff. The toddler was returned to his parents ‘unharmed’, in that he was left under a bridge at night and found by his family. I can’t imagine what they went through, never mind what they had to pay. There were a spate of kidnappings in Lagos last year but it does seem to be a rare occurrence now. There are a lot of expats living in Lagos, who have lived here for many years and with their kids. They are not bothered by the kidnapping stories because Lagos is pretty safe for a megalopolis with terrible infrastructure, inequality and 20 million people. That is testimony to the spirit of the people here. I’ve not had any bad experiences in my three years here and in this time I’ve been to Brass Island, Calabar, Port Harcourt and various parts of Lagos mainland without incident. But now I try not to let my kids go out with nanny/driver unless I am with them, no matter how tempting.
That summer at home with my son – we spent much of it in the UK/USA was challenging. I was now realising the extent to which my son had become disempowered by the nanny culture – which is the opposite of ‘Look Mummy I can do it by myself’. More ‘Look Mummy my mouth is open for feeding!’ Even at the nurseries and preschools, nannies wait on the children. These ‘nannies’ are not qualified in preschool education, they are just there to wait on and watch the children. My son was used to constant attentiveness for his wants and needs. If he was thirsty or hungry, he expected instant water or food or he howled immediately but then also expected you to sit and spoon each morsel into his mouth. He could not handle quiet time – the TV had to be on (that’s what nannies do when you go out by the way, they turn the tv on so the children don’t bother them), one reason I think my son struggles to concentrate. I don’t blame the nannies either. I was at work and I didn’t give proper guidelines for my kid’s care. He was used to being sated with sweet biscuits when bored and being carried everywhere. He was starting to fall into pidgin-speak. ‘Off de light’, ‘take’ when offering something, broken phrasing instead of full sentences.
That’s when I realised I needed to spend more time with him and my new baby to implement some changes and gradually began researching homeschooling on the internet. I started to believe I could easily do whatever he was doing at the expensive nursery (although it was a lovely place). The first few months were stressful, I’m not particularly organised and trying to think of crafts to do every minute sent me into a panic. Gradually I learned about curriculums and availability of crafts and lesson plans online. These really helped. I also bought some books around homeschooling and bit by bit I’ve felt more confident. I don’t regret my decision. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to spend time with and understand my children better and myself as a parent.