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Negotiation, Conversation, Dialogue

I moved to Oxford in March 2021. It was still Covid. That was a hard time. It was hard to meet people. We’ve been coming to the UK for vacation in Central London. Living is a whole different thing from coming for vacation. The reason we decided to move to Oxford was actually my son. From 2019, he was in the UK as a boarding student, he was 9 years old at that time. Every three weeks, they allowed them to go home for a weekend and they call it Exeat. So I was always flying in and out, every three weeks. Then I had an experience flying with British Airways, there was so much turbulence, I was so afraid that the plane will crash that day. The turbulence was so much. Everybody was shouting, running. We eventually landed, but I told my husband, ‘This UK, I'm not coming again. But this boy is too young for this separation.’ So my husband thought the next best option is for me to come for my master’s degree so that we can be here together. I just finished my master's degree at the university.  


I got to know African Families in the UK when I was reported. We went to church one Sunday morning, near my neighbourhood. My 6-year-old daughter had my phone. So while the service was going on, she was snapping pictures with my phone, she snapped so many pictures of people, actually over a hundred pictures. After the church service I took the phone from her and she started screaming and shouting and crying. And I used my finger in her face, saying ‘Stop crying, why are you making noise?’ Then the next day, Monday morning, my vicar called me and said that he was told that I beat my child in the church. I'm like, ‘No, I didn’t beat her, I just took the phone from her, and she was shouting and screaming.’ But he said he was informed that I beat her, so he has to report me to the social worker.  


So they reported me, and then the social worker told us that there’s a woman called Jacqui, she runs this organisation called African Families in the UK, which offers guidance for parents who have moved here. We had a different approach on how to deal with kids at home. Back home, your child can do something wrong and you spank your child. But here, you spank your child, you get into trouble. Jacqui took us on a course called Cross-Cultural Parenting. It was quite informative. I wish I knew Jacqui earlier. Before I met Jacqui I felt like my world had come to an end. Because I was being made to feel like I'm not parenting my children well enough. I felt like I should just kill myself because the social worker made me to feel incapable, I felt like I should die. Because I know how much I'm working hard to take care of my kids, and for somebody to make me feel like I'm not doing enough… it made me feel so bad. The social worker frustrated my life. So when we had the parenting course with Jacqui, it was a big relief for me and for us, we now had clarity and understanding of what it takes to parent in the new environment we found ourselves in.  


They were also visiting the house, sometimes they'd call the children. They’d meet them in school to ask them, ‘How has your mum been doing?’ I've never beaten them. So they're not in any form of abuse. It was so hard for me, I don't know anybody here. No relations, no friends, no family members. I was absolutely on my own with my kids. And I know nothing about the law, I know nothing about anything. And it’s not something that you take lightly. Someone coming to your house, they want to see your children's room unannounced, this kind of thing. I felt like I was in a prison. So I really love that training that Jacqui gave us. It was really helpful. And her support with the social worker. Jacqui is very knowledgeable. In fact, she's an all-rounder. There is virtually nothing you ask her, that she doesn't know what to say about it. Everything, be it children, Government, anything. I wish I lived next door to her! She has given me a lot of relief. Before I had no rest of mind, my mind was running to and from. Now I'm free.  


What I took from the first course was basically about parenting in a different way. Because the way we parent at home is different from here, whatever you tell your child to do, he doesn't have the option to say no. Parents are supreme. But here it’s a conversation you will have with your child or children. So you are going to reach an agreement. Negotiation, conversation, dialogue. They bring in their own ideas, then everybody will now agree on the best option. We needed to know that you cannot spank a child here, even when they’re little, when they’re one, two years, everybody has an opinion. So setting boundaries and limits. Back home now, when I call, I tell them, don't beat your child, don't shout at a child. Just communicate, set boundaries, if you do this, this happens. Because what I see is beating the child is not the best, actually. You make the children run away from you. After a while, they're not going to share things about themselves to you, you're not going to be their friend. They will see you as a mean parent. You’re trying to correct them, trying to make them be a good citizen, to behave, but this environment does not work on that idea of parenting. We do rewards now, with the younger ones. Do this, we're going to give you a sticker. And they’re so excited! If they do something good, ‘Oh please, give me a sticker!’ So they now struggle for rewards. It’s working like magic, honestly.  


Since then, I shared my contact details with AFiUK and I joined the parenting WhatsApp group. Any communication they share there, I get it. Some of the programmes are for children. If they are going for an excursion, I bring them out. But there are also programmes for parents, like what we are having right now, we have been having this parenting course for a while now, it will run for 12 weeks. There is also another programme called Cancer Women Talk organised by AFiUK. These are the benefits of AFiUK. In all of these programmes we have breakfast and lunch when we meet. While the children are in school and I have the time, I join as well. The one we did with my husband was how to parent your children in a country where you were not parented yourself. Then I joined a new course with a broader approach. We talked about domestic abuse, we did a bit too about safeguarding for children. It has made me more aware. It's shocking for me to know, that the rate of domestic abuse in this country is still very high, despite all the laws, awareness, and interventions by the government. I compare it to back home, where we have no government intervention. The men have control over the women everything they say is what you do. But here we have a situation where women have an opinion, but the domestic abuse is still very high. So that's shocking to me.  


I like being in the sessions. It's so lovely for somebody like me. I have made some friends in AFiUK. I'm still trying to figure out how the English people behave, and all of that. So knowing AFiUK is a big relief for me, especially when I was under the social worker. We come to this parenting programme every Friday and we share breakfast, we share ideas, we share what our experiences are, we laugh. People from all over Africa. I can't wait for every Friday to come to the programme, I try not to miss a session. Connections, with time, that will be a reality. We're getting to know each other. Maybe further on we can collaborate and share ideas. I love this group so much. Now I can call somebody other than Jacqui! Now I've got more friends.  


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