And so he fought. He fought so much he got in-school suspensions, out-of-school suspensions, after-school detentions. His parents, Ruth and Olalekan Elujoba, worried.
“One of the teachers in the middle school called me,” Olalekan Elujoba recalls. “They had suspended him and said that if I don’t take any action on this, I will spoil the boy’s future. I couldn’t sleep that night.”
Within a few weeks, Olalekan Elujoba had decided what to do. His two sons, Oladimeji and Kunle, later followed by his daughter, Comfort, would go to boarding school.
Doregos Private Academy, to be more specific.
In Lagos, Nigeria — 5,424 miles away.
Counterintuitive? Certainly. After all, for families such as the Elujobas, the whole point of coming to America is to stay here. Ask them why they came to the United States, and the Elujobas will simply stare at you, perplexed. The answer is self-evident: When you win the visa lottery as they did, you pack up your things and you go. So to book three tickets and send their children, ages 11, 12 and 13, back to the country they had not lived in since they were toddlers seems extraordinary.
But the decision made by the Elujobas and a small number of other families reflects a discomfort shared more broadly among immigrants from Africa. For all the material advantages this country offers — the jobs, the houses, the roads, the higher education — the Elujobas insist there are still pitfalls. They don’t like the expensive child care, the lax public school system, the sense of entitlement that comes with living in a country so privileged.
“Kids here, they do whatever they want,” Ruth Elujoba says. “There is no fear of parents in their minds.”
She tells an anecdote about the time she was washing her car and saw a group of 14- and 15-year-olds across the street smoking: “I called my husband and I said, ‘Look at these kids. What are they doing?’ All the information we kept hearing about kids carrying guns to school, joining gangs, we decided we will not wait until something like that happens to us.”
Praise for African schools
Sending children back to be educated in their parents’ country of origin “is not just happening among Nigerian immigrants in the United States,” John Arthur, the director of African and African American studies at the University of Minnesota at Duluth, says in an e-mail. “Despite the stereotypical media portrayal of Africa and anything associated with Africa as underdeveloped, the region has some of the best educational systems in the world. These prep and public schools emphasize STEM courses,” or classes focusing on science, technology, engineering and math.
Arthur says the quality of Africa’s education system is seen in the number of Africans who pursue postgraduate degrees at esteemed universities around the world.