The dictum ‘catching them young’ is yet to have its bearing in the lives of a good number of Nigerian parents who are preventing their children from expressing their gifting in art space. This group of parents do not only lack the knowledge of what it means for these children to grow their talents, but also have made these young ones to believe getting involved in any creative expression at an early stage in life is digressive to their education. This stand is not only retrogressive to the development of arts, but inimical to betterment of both child and parents and the society at large.
Even with Nigerian kid artist(e)s winning laurels across the globe and raking in huge sums of money through stage performances, appearances in movies, producing hit songs, drawing, among other art forms, these parents still believe that arts in any form is for lazy and irresponsible people and as such not proper for children to be expose to it.
While this group of people often described as philistines, still dwell in the dark of what constitute artistic expressions or arts, a few who know the gains of exposing their children to other forms of learning have begun to send their children to creative stations to hone their skills. Some go to the extent of making special arrangements with talent instructors to come to their houses to teach their children how to play different musical instrument; how to sketch, draw and paint among other things. And for those who are not buoyant or privileged to get these instructors come to their houses register their children/wards at the few creative stations, during the long vacation when the children have little or no schoolwork to tie them down.
On whether it is right to expose children to diverse and varied art forms, Ms. Josephine Igberaese, former Director in charge of Drama, National Troupe, and Coordinator, National Troupe Creative Station Workshop, said, such art workshops should be encouraged, adding that creative stations are avenues to expose the child to other forms of learning outside the classroom.
Igberaese blamed parents ignorance of developing their children’s talents on the ‘old belief’ of making people to work and earn recognition based on their academic certificates referred to as ‘paper qualification’ in the Nigerian street palace.
She stressing that our educational system and the planners of the curriculum should take the greater blame for this gap, adding the creative stations aside developing the child’s natural gifts, serves as platform to transfer our culture to the children, especially those who hardly visit their villages or even know how to speak any of our local languages.
According to the former National Troupe of Nigeria (NTN) Director, research shows that children involved in dramatic arts early in life do well in their studies than those not involved. She noted that allowing children to engage in artistic activities will enable them understand other people’s ways of life, mingle and learn new things outside the school curriculum.
Quoting Confucius, the Chinese sage, Igberaese, said, “the principle of ‘what I see I remember, what I hear I forget, and what I do I understand,’ comes true with creative and talent development stations because instructors at these stations make the child the centre of their activities. She revealed that the children are fully involved in the drama, singing, sketching, dancing, miming, among others; so, whatever they have learnt there will remain with them for life because they were involved in the process.
“Most parents in our last presentation were surprise to see their children perform on stage. Some parents take their children aboard all the time without allowing them to mingle with others from different cultural backgrounds and to learn and develop their natural skills. We need to let these children grow up in our environment, teach them our culture, make them mingle with people from other parts of the country and learn. However, I blame our educational system because we lay much emphasis on academic, theory instead of making the children develop or acquire skills they could combine with their paper qualifications to earn a living in future,” she said.
Calling on organisers of the few creative stations in country, including the National Troupe of Nigeria (NTN), to up the ante and make it a weekend affair instead the regular long vocation school period it normally holds, she noted that doing this will not only keep the children busy, but will motivate them to learn more and progress in their school work.
On the import of allowing one’s child to be part of any creative station, Olayiwola Awakan, founder of Artsbeat Concepts, disclosed that children are agents of change and should be exposed to the happenings intheir immediate environment early in life. According to him, children are like bridges each generation uses to get to the next generation and as such need to be properly guided and trained to do this. He noted that apart from teaching these children to continue from where their parents stopped, children involved in any activities around the arts improve in reasoning, observation, logic and intelligence.
“Arts of any form teache real life issues. So, it introduces children to real life challenges through performance ¬¬— dance, drama, the spoken words, dawing — among others, and also how to handle difficulties when they arise. It helps to keep them fit intellectually and physically,” he said.
Awakan revealed that many parents still do not know the power of the arts, adding that he and his crew go from community to community to convince them to enroll their children for free in their arts summer classes. He noted that his group has to make their creative station to be within the period the children are on long holiday, as a way to convince parents that their activities would not hinder their children’s schoolwork.
“Some of these children are already interested in the arts, but school activities would not give them the required time to express themselves. Aside this, they have to convince their parents that being involved in the arts would not make them deviate from there studies. So, it is a battle we just have to fight and must win. It is inline with this that we just have to make hold workshops during school holidays. This has become our winning wand, especially as participation in creative works will keep the children off social vices and hooliganism,” he said.
The founder, Artsbeat Concepts, disclosed that developing children’s talent and creativity is for the benefit of all ¬— the child, parents, instructors and the society. He noted that it is a win-win enterprise for all the stakeholders, adding that although the children benefit more because they are the ones impacted and whatever they must have learnt remain their asset, the parents and teachers benefit indirectly because when a child is good in a particular talent, the society becomes proud of him or her.
Highlighting some of the gains of participation, Tosyn Phebean Oluwadare, Creative Director of Artsxii disclosed that making children to be involved in creative station, especially art related enable them develop confidence in themselves and be focused in their studies or any endeavour they embark on. She noted that over the years parents have commended her for correcting their children who find it difficult to concentrate, saying that the discipline music lessons inculcate in the trainee would enable such children to pay attention to their keys and once they are able to do this, they will transfer such ability to their studies or other activities.
Tosyn informed that other gains of art activities include helping the child to develop courage and boldness to face crowd and speak without mixing his or her words or being jittery, saying these attributes are what some people even at their old ages struggle to get. According to her, training from these stations enhanced children’s communication skills and even made them ask questions or speak out whenever any stranger wants to lead them astray or intimidate them.
She also noted that children who suffer short attention span can be corrected through this means, as arts has the attribute of arresting one’s attention, making one to think, be focused and determined to finish well. Artsxii Creative Director, however, expressed shock as to why parents are not keying into these advantages, adding that there is a wide range of other benefits, including picking career options in the arts or building talents to kill boredom in life.
For Evenly Osagie, Evenly D’Poet, creative stations are worth attending as they could help change the perception of the child to life, make him or her a change agent because it brings real life issues or happenings around the child to the stage.
Evenly D’Poet noted that through her Art On The Street Project, she has changed some parents’ attitude and perceptions towards their children and their environment, adding that arts make the child to develop analytically think, aside being a game changer or being involved in advocacy.
She recounted how some students have openly told her that they are able to do well in their mathematics classes because of the disciple and training they got from a music creative station.She said: “Arts is important and every child should be involved because it enhance learning. It could enable a child develop the ability to think; critical thinking weather they find themselves in the performance art, sciences, engineering or trade in future.”