An African proverb states "It takes a village to raise a child." How does this statement reflect the care of children in Igbo community?

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In Thing Fall Apart, education and child-rearing are openly integrated into tribal life and not, like Western culture has it, private and independent institutions.  A young child is primarily raised by her mother in her obi until s/he is ready for initiation into adulthood.  A male teenager, for example, would then move into his father's obi at about ages 15-16 to begin a kind of apprenticeship where would learn to hunt, farm, and wrestle.

During this period of apprenticeship, the teenage boy might receive lessons and advice from uncles, elders, and friends of his father.  Teenage daughters would learn to cook, farm cassavas, and trade at the market, not only from their birth mothers but also their "step-mothers" (also married to their father), aunts, and cousins.

In the novel we see Nwoye and Ikemefuna go through these phases together, with the latter serving as a surrogate brother.  But, just as "it takes a village to raise a child," it also takes a village to kill one.  The execution of Ikemefuna is ordered by the priestess, sanctioned by Ani, and carried out by a group of male tribal elders, including Okonkwo, his surrogate father.  The once boy is now a soon-to-be man who is either a threat or underserving of the tribe's resources.

Enzinma, Okonkwo's most promising daughter, is likewise taken, not by a group of men to be killed, but to be trained and healed by Chielo, the priestess of Agbala, who serves as a spiritual guide to the sickly teen.  Perhaps it will be Enzinma who will succeed Chielo in her priestess duties as Oracle of the Caves and Hills.

Taken together, the plights of Ikemefuna and Enzinma show that the Igbo community collectively strive to raise and protect their own as a means of insulating their values and passing on their traditions to those whom they absolutely trust, not outsiders (Ikemefuna) who will taint their culture.

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