‘SAY MAMA’ says it all about putting academic excellence over good manners
By Victor Ojelabi
Funmilayo Omikunle in any movie is an attention catcher. This retired teacher turned professional actress, and arguably one of the best role player as mother in Nollywood Yoruba, will always make you take cover when ever she fumes in her alpha-mom character. Funmilayo can also be a delight to watch when playing the sweet, cool, calm, beta-mom roles. Overall she does this ‘Iya ni wura’ thing so well.
It is therefore not strange that her talent was once again showcased in the movie ‘Say Mama’, where she played the role of a benign mom, who poured all her resources into giving her two children a sound education. Her motivation was the fact that education would empower the children and help them achieve good success in life. She was wrong!
Everyone agrees that schools should teach students how to read, write, do arithmetic and enter a profession, but what about teaching students how to be good people? The question of whether education should deliver strictly intellectual content or whether it should incorporate morality is a classic debate amongst educators and in the larger society. ‘Say Mama’ is an x-ray of the effect of the 19th century’s turn to ONLY academic excellence at the expense of moral education. The film is primarily about a single mother who strived day and night to see that the children succeeded educationally, knowingly neglecting the moral aspect, which led to her raising children who became a societal menace.
For much of history in the Western world, moral and intellectual education were thought to go hand-in-hand. But as literacy received world-wide acceptance and the Industrial Age blossomed in the 1900’s, scientific advances inspired a new respect for the value of objective investigation and inquiry. New fields like psychology and sociology, which attempted to address many of the moral and spiritual questions traditionally left to religion, emerged. The popularity of major theories of the time, like Darwin’s evolution theory, reduced the authority of religion and led many professors and teachers to reduce the use of very religious or moral themes in education. Students should be taught to think scientifically and rationally, educators reasoned, and should be left free to form their own theories about right and wrong. This quickly created a new role for parents, who now have to ensure that the moral aspect of their children’s education is not left behind as they achieve academic success. The very obvious need for a child to be kind, noble, selfless, upright etc., which are qualities embodied in morality, couldn’t be made so unimportant, because what good will be that advance knowledge and skills if put to selfish and vile use. The task on parents became more difficult with the dynamics of the digital age (21st century), as children now deal with a new major kind of social influence, peer pressure.
In this movie, Gabriel Afolyan and Jumoke Odetola played out the roles of that educated, morally-bankrupt child so well. These two award-wining actors gave the world a hyper-realistic rendition of what the future looks like filled with kids with extremely sharp minds, but blurred visions and poor values. ‘Say Mama’ affords the ever-busy 21st century parent the opportunity to see first-hand, the dangers of letting a child grow their own believe system heavily influenced by the words and actions of their peers. It further reveals the peril of being a ‘Yes Mom’, who believes all is well once the child is happy. The cardinal function of creating a moral standard in the home and running all the kids requests, actions and choices through it was quite evident in the story. The film was also well spiced with comedy skits, with Saka (Hafeez Oyetoro), Instagram-famed comic act, Omo Ibadan (Adebola Adeyela) dropping all the rip crackers that you will surely need to get off the emotional bites of the children’s waywardness.
Taking a distant view of the movie as an import into the state of morality in the Nigerian society, one would want to expect that actors, fans, friends and family who sees the play take a diagnostic view of their own lives, family and circles of influence, to see how they can further drive its message for a change. Pasuma Wonder, for instance, should be wondering how his wife, Jaiye Kut’s role in this film relates to the reality of the world, where he is such a big influence. As a loved brand among the commercial bus and motorcycle operators, his music can be a carrier of the message to these people, who are famous for exhibiting a severe dearth in ethics. The question is will ‘Say Mama’ inspire him to make more instructive music on morality for innocuous correction of these set?
Generally, this movie has a strong message, uniquely told to emphasis the moral-educator role of parents. The cast couldn’t have been better, plot and scenes are quite relatable to the Nigerian experience. It is also well subtitled for the viewers who do not understand Yoruba. So you should add this to your instructional material set as a 21st century parent (or would be parent).