In the midst of economic uncertainty, it is essential to recognize that wealth extends beyond monetary assets. While cash may buy a house, it takes creativity and adaptability to transform that house into a true home.
In contemporary Nigeria, marked by recessionary times, families face the daunting task of turning their homes into nurturing spaces filled with the essentials of provision, education, and comfort, rather than breeding grounds for stress-induced anger, violence, and dysfunction.
In the words of Nigerians, “money stops nonsense.” I would like to emphasize that making sensible changes in your spending habits is what best puts an end to nonsense. It’s not always about increasing your income (which can be difficult in today’s economy); what truly matters is the prudent utilization of the money you already possess.
The ongoing national economic recession is impacting real people and reshaping the very fabric of families. Those who observe the storm’s patterns and design strategies to weather it will not only survive but also emerge stronger.
In these challenging times, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but families must adapt and restructure to maximize their positive contributions to the nation’s well-being.
Drawing from the wisdom of Chinua Achebe’s early novel, “Things Fall Apart,” which depicted a pre-colonial African society, we can glean insights into traditional family structures and how they managed to work and raise their children. In that era, both parents contributed to the family’s well-being.
Fathers engaged in hunting, fishing, and tending to labour-intensive crops like yams, while mothers cultivated daily-need crops and cared for livestock near the home.
This division of labor allowed parents to tend to their children, with assistance from grandparents and other relatives when necessary. Children learned valuable skills by understudying their elders, and orphans found support from extended family and mentors.
This traditional system was well-organized and achieved their goals. Societies that prioritize family cohesion tend to succeed on a national level.
In today’s Nigeria, economic hardships have led to job losses, inflation, and rising costs of basic necessities like food and fuel. Some families find themselves in situations where both parents have lost their jobs or are grappling with delayed salaries, all while striving to meet their family’s basic needs.
As successive national budgets over the years have anticipated deficits, many Nigerian households are getting accustomed to operating at a financial deficit, slipping into poverty at an alarming rate. Aristotle’s assertion that poverty is the parent of crime becomes increasingly relevant as families confront financial stress and its ripple effects.
Financial stress can strain marriages, trigger spousal and child abuse, and lead to stress-induced illnesses such as depression, ulcers, and high blood pressure while access to quality medical care has become a luxury. Families now struggle to afford check-ups and prescriptions.
While the direct link between poverty and crime is complex, it is clear that poverty breeds dysfunction within families, which can extend into the community, jeopardizing its health and safety. Families can beat poverty (lack of access to basic necessities like food, clothing and education for children) by looking beyond money to wisely harness the resources they have.
One practical way for families to alleviate financial stress is to assess their income and spending habits and make necessary adjustments. In some households, both parents work, yet their combined expenses exceed their monthly earnings.
Is it wise for both parents to continue working when the financial rewards of their pooled effort remain meagre? Certain households have discovered that they are in a more advantageous position with one parent opting to stay at home, overseeing tasks that they would otherwise have outsourced at a higher expense.
For example, families with children under 6years of age may need to have one parent stay home to look after the kids and supervise their basic education using many of the Independent Education Plans now available on the Internet rather than battle with school fees they cannot afford, and probably also pay a child-minder to care for them after school until the parents return from work.
There are also online curricular available for older children whose parents may be unable to cope with school fees.
The spouse who stays at home can also engage in other activities that would save the family costs including mending and making clothes, bedlinen and tapestries, keeping a small poultry, vegetable and flower garden, baking bread and other snacks; sometimes for sale to neighbours and so on.
In conclusion, true wealth encompasses not only financial resources but also strategic thinking and discipline. Sometimes, taking unconventional routes, such as home-schooling, can lead to successful educational outcomes without the burden of high fees.
The ability to adapt, prioritize, and make informed decisions is crucial for families facing economic challenges, ultimately strengthening the family unit and contributing positively to the nation’s well-being.
Using my family as an example, we had to take a hard decision when we withdrew our children from a private school they were attending. We were passing through tough times as we had just relocated from Kaduna to Lagos because of sporadic violent eruptions in Kaduna at the time.
They were in their teens and we could not bear the thought of sending them to public schools so, we had them study at home using WAEC syllabus. They each sat for GCE at the appropriate time as independent candidates, made their O’ Level papers and thereafter gained admission into the University of Lagos.