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I NO NA MBE: The Igbo Child’s Protective Boot


By Mazi Odera Orazulike

I remember when I was a child, that whenever I provoked somebody stronger that me, I would then run to an elder person or even anybody around and then I am secured and protected from the impending bullying.

“I no na mbe”  literally means “being under protection”. This is a very strong cultural practice among the Igbos, a child no matter what he did, once he runs to an elder is protected from punishment at least at the moment.

It is a generally known practice which the children do not play with because they know the importance of that practice, even among the children, they also can enter ” MBE” and when such is done, the person being troubled is reminded that the culprit is in “MBE ” and as such should not be touched.

The impact of this cultural practice can not be underrated, it offers security to children, not that they should go on to offend people because if it is among peers, the protector will act as judge and may punish the child or ask the other to forgive.

When it comes to the family, it also helps to bring sanity back to the household, because it prevents the parents or the elderly person from acting out of anger, and therefore will prevent the person from giving undue punishment to the child.

Unfortunately, children are no longer conversant with this important cultural practice and it is going into extinction, just like many other aspects of our culture. This may seem an unimportant issue but preserving every detail of our heritage is as important as preserving our language and culture.

So, I call on us not only to let the children know of this practice meant for their protection but other aspects of our culture because no particular aspect of our culture is more important than the other.

Mazi Odera Orazulike

(Department of History and Culture, OPINIONS FROM AFRICA.)

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