A future wrecked by divorce

Tom Ugo is not his real name. He was 4 years old when his parents were
divorced in 2012, because of what they said were their irreconcilable
differences. Ugo did not go to school in the preceding year due to the
quandaries that the divorce had degenerated into.

Ugo’s family resided in Oyigbo, a suburb of Port Harcourt, the capital of
Rivers State, during the time of their troubles. His parents fought over
who should take custody of Ugo. While doing so, they did not take into
cognizance the sermon by experts on marital challenges that parents’
divorce will mean breaking of trust among their children. Also, they did
not mind the matrix that says what is on the mind of every child is to see
their family being stable and last with love.

Given the situation, Ugo’s parents were not in the near to recognize the
anxiety their separation from marriage was causing him. His hope was
shattered. No professional counselling or approaches seemed to be in place
to tame and manage the experiences of Separation Anxiety Disorder that
supervened. Ugo’s parents later went back to court and were cleared on who
should take custody of the young boy. Making clear the security and care
for Ugo by the court Ugo will go to school again by living with his mother.

Ugo had to start going to school again in 2014. Although, Ugo’s mother won
the custody of keeping Ugo, the impact of the divorce was still visible.
The young Ugo was always upset by the issue of separation. He hardly kept
useful routine at home. This was because he could not maximize the benefits
he needed from both parents he would have loved to live together.
Unpredictability and poor structure caused by the separation of his parents
was quickly weighing him down.

What is the origin of divorce? Has it a history? Divorce is as old as the
origin of human family relationships. Some early history of divorce was
traced to Europe around 1857; and in that early era, only men were
permitted to divorce. In this period of time, there was Matrimonial Causes
Act. This act allowed ordinary people to divorce. Though all men were
presumed to marry and divorce, the right to divorce through the Act of
Parliament was only opened to the rich. Divorce was hugely an expensive
social occurrence then. From Henry VIII to White v White as reported on
Saturday 19 September 2009 investigation by a broadsheet, Henry VIII was
granted a divorce by the Archbishop of Canterbury, long before then. Church
courts retained the power to dissolve marriages.

Conversely, whichever institution that retains the autonomy to dissolve
marriages, psychoanalysis by a Gimba Abdullahi Liman on June 15 2012
expressed the concern of one Mrs. Maryam Mohammed Madam, a Sociologist, in
the Department of General Studies, Federal Polytechnic Bida that divorce
has negative effects on children’s education. It highlighted the impact of
physical, emotional, cognitive, moral and educational effects on the
children. Liman in his summation, added that the single parent no longer
has ample time for the children and they fall victim of many antisocial
behaviours from peer groups. Parenting as a single household is
increasingly under pressure to do better and save children faced with
stressful lives of here today with a mother and there tomorrow with a
father in shared time lines.

Coming to terms with a high rate of divorce in society these days, many
children in Nigeria are being exposed to divorce that many had to repeat
class over and over. In the event that children from divorced backgrounds
did not drop out from school in its entirety, a child is easily trapped
with poor school performance and repeating of classes. They are subjected
by their parents’ divorce to experience rejection, trouncing of love and
bodily injury. In school, they show traits of urchins, because they were
not given attention and, are made to be unhappy. The impact of divorce on
children is no easy emotional and stressful development.

Such children with divorce experiences may engage in drugs and other social
crimes such as petty stealing, suicide, murder. They suffer the
psychological and social issues of their parents’ divorce anywhere they
went. Some of them show serious mental health outcomes to deal with. The
consequence of which will give their school authorities a handful of
troubles that they cannot contain. Many suffer from delayed learning
process; while others who are not in bodily contact with each of their
parents, may fail to equal the level of the educational achievements of
their parent.

The list of challenges on children caused by divorce is a long one. The
least of the effects that children of school going age may suffer in
divorce situations in Nigeria can range from poverty to traumatic health
imbalances. In the so-called civilized climes, children who are suffering
from psychological traumas, as a result of divorce, are subjected to
undergo psycho-educational testing. But in Nigeria they would be dropped
out of school, due to the lackadaisical approach with which governments at
all levels handle the issues pertaining to educators and parents.

Apart from that there is hardly any role of the government to determine the
life of a child’s uneasiness at school. Just recently, the Director of the
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO,
in Nigeria, Professor Hassana Alidou at a launch of the Education For All,
EFA, Global Monitoring Report, GMR, said that Nigeria has some of the worst
educational indicators in the world.

UNESCO’s representative in Nigeria disclosed that the menace is already
costing governments $129 billion a year; ten per cent of the global
spending is on primary education, yet, hardly a child out of four children
can read a single sentence or solve a simple mathematics. UNESCO feared
that it would take poorest young women in developing countries of Asia and
Africa until 2072, for all to be literate.

This is coming after the body lamented in a report that over 10 million
Nigerian children of school age are not in school. It is observable that
children from divorced homes have inattentive and uncooperative manners and
are beleaguered at school. And while these children suffer learning
processes, hardly has any school in the country appropriately engaged a
school psychologist that could examine the child and offer some appropriate
counseling measures in order to place the child properly in school.

It is known that some schools attempt to say they have school counselors,
who may have read such courses at school, but they are not professionals,
who could have responsibility of a department, as observers and analyzers
of troubles associated with behaviours of concern related to divorce at
school. Factors that most times put the children’s academic future in
danger could be itemized under frivolities of divorce.

Lately, a 50 year old business man whose name was given as Mr. Saliu
Adesokan reportedly implored an Igando Customary Court in Lagos to dissolve
his 17-year-old marriage to his wife, Jumoke Adesokan, for switching his
children to Christianity. According to comments credited to Mr. Adesokan,
he had enrolled his children in an Islamic school, but his wife withdrew
them from the school and took them to church. But the wife, whose age was
given at 45, said that it was the children, who on their own preferred
attending church and, that she had no hand in their choice for church.

Investigation revealed that Mr. Adesokan had divorced his first two wives
claiming that they had bad conduct; a case that Jumoke said that her step
daughters were making life depressed for her and had turned her into a
knocking

bag. According to her, “If I report them to my husband, what he
always says is that leave them, they will soon go to their husband’s
houses, he will not even scold them.”

On March 5, 2014, Mr. Yusuf Abdulkareem, an Ilorin Upper Area Court Judge,
apparently decried the high rate of divorce in the country and how it is
disadvantageous to the future of children. Abdulkareem made this disclosure
in Ilorin. He informed newsmen: “Children get wayward and unsecured as soon
as their parents dissolve their marriage, because two good hands are better
than one in training a child. You see children going into prostitution,
armed robbery and other terrible acts just because their parents are no
more together and they see themselves as being hopeless.”

The irony of divorce is that while the couple enjoys the attention they
sought for in the hands of the authorities, the children do not, from such
marriage. It is visible that children respond to divorce differently,
depending on their gender, age and juncture of development. They have a
feeling that since their parents could not stay together it was imperative
that they did not love themselves.

Divorce is a current social crisis in Nigeria that is affecting children’s
education. From across the regions – East, West, South and North – the
story is the same. Northern areas of Nigeria continue to be hit by the
nuisances of insurgents and divorce. The plague called almajiri could not
be a product only created by the Islamic education system in the north,
but, also, by failed marriages and family values.

Freshly, the Federal Government of Nigeria under the leadership of
President Jonathan Goodluck government instituted Almajiri Education
Programme in order to tackle the menace. But how seriously the nineteen
states in the north and the Muslim clerics are that the almajiris utilize
the school system modeled in a Western education form, does not meet the
eyes.

According to a source: “The nineteen states in the north have had little
success in containing the problem of the almajiris, facing strong
resistance from Muslim clerics in the more traditional Muslim states of the
north against any policy that is seen to restrict the operations of Islamic
schools that are the source of these almajiris.”

The source was worried that the high rate of divorce in that region of the
country is telling on children. The source also informed that since Muslims
form the large part of the population of the north and are authorized to
marry more than one wife, polygamy is rife “with 38% of those in rural
areas and 22% of those in urban areas in polygamous marriages.”

Not even the religious and civic and traditional orders on marriage have
helped the Nigerian children from being the most affected in divorce. Such
children will most often hawk and beg, on the streets, to augment their
income for wellbeing. The Universal Basic Education scheme (UBE) has a
limit in funding the basic school, let alone, the children who are
financially constrained.

It is unclear how the Matrimonial Causes Act enacted in 1970 has saved or
is saving marriages in the country. The Act was primarily formulated to
address the issue of dissolution of marriages under three separate laws.
Social pundits apparently regret that what the Act had mainly focused on
was to register more marriages than to solve the problem of dissolution of
marriages.

One Rita Gonyok who was a youth corper with National Press Centre, Abuja,
on 10 July 2008 advised that parents who propose to divorce should take
their children’s security and their stability into consideration in order
not to jeopardize their future. She warned that there is no loss that is
heavier and that could be measured in both parents and the children than
that of contested and devastating divorce.

She frowned at divorce because, according to her, it causes the children
untold stress, complications in sleeping, problems in schooling, nervous
habits, recurring physical behaviours, and a relapse of episodes of
behaviours. The dangers of such emotional stresses will result in
bed-wetting, fears, and at randomly taking solace in undesirable pastime
activities to wreck their future.

In Gonyok’s strong view, children may become clingy and whiny and they may
need greater understanding of their moods and behaviour. She warned that
children have a greater need to be nurtured; but failure of which may in
turn impose greater need to “take care” of their parents. She added that
giving up one’s childhood to care for emotionally troubled parents is an
all-encompassing characteristic outcome in children of divorced family.

The outcome of disturbed emotions translates into behaviours of concern
that impede learning and positive contribution to one’s society. This is
more noticeable among children challenged with circumstances of their
parental divorce. By experiencing children faced with sporadic and planned
divorce, educators in Nigeria must truly find ways to work with
professionals in the field of child education and complex needs to make
them better persons through balanced psychological, supportive and positive
behaviour approaches.

Written by
Odimegwu Onwumere
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