By Princess Chinecherem Efobi
They take the kids to school in cars and buses. Sometimes Keke n’ Pepe and okada riders come to the rescue. I am not saying it is a bad thing; neither am I arguing to the contrary, that it is good. But the children of 1990 and before, would relate to my concern. Walking from Nweje Lane to Nweje Primary School is about three miles, but we walked to school, nonetheless. On the other hand, we walked to Sacred Heart Parish Odo-Akpu every day for Catechism class and on Sundays for Mass. The benefits are innumerable. We will get to there in a second but, first school run.
According to Wikipedia, “The school run is the modern practice of parents taking their children to school by car. Many parents park their cars in school car parks and driveways to drop off and pick up their children at the appropriate times.” Reading meaning into the definition, two things stood on the pedestal; first, it is a modern phenomenon, second, an automobile is involved. Is it because of the distance or showing off wealth?
The school run is the journey that parents make each day when they take their children to school and bring them home from school. Another dictionary definition. I remember going to school with kids whose parents were very wealthy. They had two cars or more, but they were never dropped off at school. The economy was booming, petrol was affordable, and the schools were not close by, but nobody was dropped off. Not in an exotic car or even a rickety (gwuragwura) car.
I am not advocating for either side, because we can attribute the cause to many things. For example, I could argue that school runs are a butterfly effect of kidnapping (Ndi nto). Though in our days kidnappers would go after school kids, but our parents didn’t respond with school runs. Recently, kidnapping has morphed into adult-napping. The kidnappers don’t go after the kids so much anymore. The goal and motive of kidnapping have changed tremendously. In those days they kidnapped the kids only; in recent times rich adults are the targets.
So, the argument on the risk of kidnapping would fail. Another argument may be the cultural copycat behaviour of human beings. The school run is a western development. Not a bad one, for the conditions. The mother is doing three jobs. The dad is nowhere to be found and the woman needs a car to drop off the poor kids and race to her job. Moreover, in the west, having a car is a necessity, not a luxury. The roads are so busy and so organized that you need a car to navigate your survival and responsibilities. Okay, enough of these logical innuendos.
I was home for Christmas break in Ifitedunu. Every morning I would run down to the stream to get some exercise. The temperature was hot, too. I was sweating a lot, maybe because of the weather or maybe the change of environment. So, I bumped into Nwoye, a long-time childhood friend. I was very happy to see him. Nwoye was in hurry. He asked to visit me in the evening if I was going to be around. Who wouldn’t welcome a visit from an old friend? Especially when they are not parasitic and troublesome. I continued my exercise, down the hills, up the hills, a few more times, and went back home.
In the evening Nwoye showed up with a young boy of 8 years in a school uniform. It was 5:30 pm. I asked him what happened? I don’t know what I was thinking about the lad, but I could tell that the boy was his son. I guessed right, he was Ikenna, his first son. “Where are you coming from, Nwoye and why is your son still in his school uniform?” Surprisingly, Nwoye replied, “School run.” I was happy, I was disappointed, and I was sad.
I was happy that my long-time old friend now has a car and a family and a boy to take over his patronage. Which means he is doing well in common terms. A family, a car, and a son, and probably a job I assume. Secondly, I was disappointed that a distance of less than 200 yards is what he could not allow his son to walk Monday through Friday. Third and finally, I asked Nwoye the type of car he was using, and he said that it was a bicycle, not a car. I thought maybe he was making a joke, so I stood up and looked out. Lo and behold, a long-john bike. Should I cry or should I laugh, I do not know. Pick your choice.
I asked him if it is a must that he should take Ikenna to school? He replied on the negative. “By the way Nwoye, why were you hurrying in the morning when I saw you?” “So that I can go for the school run.” I asked him if he enjoys doing the school run. He said no but was quick to remind me that everyone is doing that now. I told him not to follow the crowd. We should be reasonable in copying cats.
Finally, I am not against school runs, but Nwoye should not be doing school runs and Ikenna should be allowed to go to school alone, to gain some exercise and have some comradery with fellow students. It was in the ‘legedes-benz’ and ‘footrun-salon’ cars that we learned from our fellow students and cross-fertilized ideas.