As Whitney Houston once sang, “I believe children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way…!” I believe that too, especially in current times: however, I have to say I’m slightly sceptical on the ‘let them lead the way….’ especially in this day and age. Instead I would say, “…. Teach them well and listen to them occasionally…!”
Raising a child in the dot.com age is not easy; it’s especially hard in this country when most of what we’ve been taught conflicts with everything else. Majority of KenBrit parents belong to the lost generation or generation X where everyone – your parents, anyone older, teachers, the police etc – had a right to discipline you and your word had no weight or meaning: talking back only exacerbated the situation. Our children today stand their ground and I have to say most of the times they make salient points.
One of those salient points is on investment – I heard a story of this mother who told her daughter that she had a piece of land worth millions and she would be leaving that to her. The daughter was excited for like two minutes because she learnt the land was in Kenya and the millions was about £15,000. Not that the investment is nothing, it’s just not what the daughter wants.
The following is an open letter to KenBrit parents from a KenBrit millennial.
Being a 19-year-old female Kenyan in the UK has taught me a lot, particularly the importance of communicating on behalf of the younger Kenyans that may find it difficult to communicate their views. Before getting into the bulk of this post, it’s only right to tell you about myself and who I am. My name is Tiffany Shirú, a blogger http://www.tslondonn.co.ukentrepreneur and speaker and above all a daughter to one of the most understanding mum out there. Throughout my pre-teen and teen years I’ve always sought to be different and worked on growing my knowledge and mindset on things that most African parents would frown upon – from wanting to be a designer to launching a fashion blog at 11 everything I did really was outside the category of what is usually acceptable. By this I mean the standard jobs of law, medicine and engineering based on the typical parental blueprint for what is expected for their child. My Mum assisted me and went above and beyond to support my ventures, even when it didn’t make sense to her she’d wholeheartedly stand by me – whether that be with meeting prep or even sewing with me at 2am because I chose Textiles. Currently, you’ll be surprised to hear I’m studying Politics, Philosophy and Religion at the University of Birmingham – which when looking back doesn’t tie into any of the creative ventures I went into. However, the process of exploring and unpicking what made me passionate caused me to pick the degree I’m doing now.
Let kids be kids. I have a little cousin who’s 2 years old and watching her curiosity about the world around her is truly beautiful. For many, a couple years down the line this curiosity is constrained and fades away – because of the beginning of a decade of internal pressures from family to ‘do well’ and ‘succeed’. I never fit into the bracket of the traditional job roles of which I feel sometimes can be seen in kids early on, some seek to be creative whereas others thrive in problem solving. The first 10 years in a child’s life are crucial for the development and exploration of ideas, I believe the ideas I created then shaped my thought process. Engaging in and doing what I wanted in terms of extracurricular allowed me to excel academically – because everything I was doing; I did out of enjoyment. We’re so blessed as children of Kenyans who arrived in this country not knowing what faced them, to now have the facilities and ability to explore opportunities presented to us. At the root however, it all begins at home – showing support or interest in ideas that your son/daughter has can be the difference between them living happy or in regret.
Invest in our future here because ultimately this is our home as much as it is yours. I’ve heard many deny that the UK is their home, which I understand but some of you have lived here for more than half your lives. When a vast majority of Kenyans arrived in the 90s, the plan was not to live here or settle – but to go back once enough money had accumulated. Then children came into the picture and now you’re in a limbo where you don’t really know if you’ll ever go back. Yet if you weighed up how much equity you have in Kenya compared to here, the reality is more is in Kenya – resulting in nothing for your children to gain from here. There is the argument that ‘home is home’, however there is a balance. My heritage is everything and more to me, going to Kenya gives me a sense of pride to be part of an extraordinary community. But, to invest here is to have certainty that your children will have access to whatever you invest in and all of it – without the overhanging worries of corruption or falsehoods. I challenge you to go outside investing in the ordinary, branch out and learn what is investable – not just homes and land.
We have so much to give to this world, I know the skill set and ability exists in our community – from the new creatives to the future thinkers. Our knowledge is beyond us, the future as a generation honestly holds so much that we cannot even envision in the present. Let’s make the future of our country proud. Together. In the spirit of Harambe.