JB Fagoyinbo

“Oju bǫrǫ kǫ ni a fi ngb’ǫmǫ l’ǫwǫ ekurǫ” The palm kernel cannot be extracted from its nut with ease.

In discussion, this usually flows well as “Oju bǫrǫ kǫ l’ a fi ngb’ǫmǫ l’ǫwǫ ekurǫ”. We need palm-kernel-extractionstrong determination to be able to extract the palm kernel from the nut. Generally the nut is very hard and requires great effort to crack it open in order to remove the kernel. How did the Yoruba develop this proverb? And why apply it to difficult situations?

The African oil palm Elaeis guineensis is indigenous to Africa and yields kernels that take a good proportion of its mass. Its kernel yields kernel oil which has a strong dark brown color with a strong taste, but it is rarely used outside West Africa. It is high in saturated fats, esterified with glycerol (Imoisi et al, 2015) and is more saturated than palm oil. It does not contain cholesterol or trans-fatty acids and it is rich in antioxidants. Many people have discovered that the active substance may have the ability to reverse blockage of the carotid artery and platelet aggregation thereby reducing the risk of life-threatening diseases. It is used to manage convulsion in children, can be used to reduce the effect of epilepsy attack, it can contain arteriosclerosis and other heart disease problems and helps in managing stroke and slowpoke tumor progression.

Characteristics of Yoruba Proverbs

Most Yoruba proverbs have been able to withstand the test of time because the proverbs developed from a deep understanding of the circumstances that generated them. Let’s take, for instance, the case of a recalcitrant child to test our proverb. Such a child is not born recalcitrant but had acquired such characteristic due to environmental circumstances which .may bother on parenthood or comperes.

Unbruised Collection of Palm Kernel
Unbruised Collection of Palm Kernel

Parents would like their children to grow up to be civilized, cultured, feel comfortable doing what they are supposed to do and follow the rules most of the time without questioning the rules; which would manifest in treating other children and adults with respect, speaking politely to other people, having self-confidence and high self-esteem and commitment to and persistence in hard work.

No parents want their children to grow up to be the sort of people who act like robots: doing all they are told unquestioningly. They want them to be logical in their thinking and actions; children should not be so intimidated by parents that they will not or cannot argue their cases.

In much the same way as the palm fruit is attractive to animals so is the protection offered by


nature to ensure that it matures. Generally, children start off with a desire to please their parents. But there are also negative forces demanding the attention of a child at any stage of growth; these manifest in undesirable behaviors.

Parents have to determine which of their children’s undesirable behaviors are really important enough to discourage and which other misbehaviors are trivial.

Parents want to protect their children and mold their behavior into what seems to them to be proper (Peters, 2012). In the same way, as unbruised kernels attract buyers at a good price, so parents wish their offspring to be unpolluted by the environment.

Parent-Child Conflict

There is one continuing dispute that defines the relationship between children of every age and their parents. In young children, conflict often develops when parents are indistinct about what they really want. These conflicts, then, do not come from a test of will, but from a failure of communication (Peters, 2012).

But, unlike the palm fruit, children always want to assert themselves in their own ways. They wish to be independent; to the extent their age and circumstances permit. To grow up successfully, they have to become independent of their parents; implying that they have to develop their own values and attitudes about religion, sexuality, profession,  politics and whatever else they think is integral to their personality. Intrinsic in those contrasting wishes is a conflict to a greater or lesser extent; depending on just what the wishes of the growing child are and on how insistent the parents are. Such conflict cannot be completely eliminated.


Two things we should know that nature carries out in respect of the kernel; nurturing and protection. As nature nurtures the kernel to maturity so does it offer protection. Every part of the plant takes part in the nurturing process. Irrespective of the height, protection is offered by

Thorny Midrib Protection
Thorny Midrib

the thorns on the leaf base, the spikes on the bunch, the acidic content of the unripe seed pulp and the thick shekel that is very hard. Notwithstanding, animals like squirrels, snakes, ants, birds, bats, etc. still have access to the nuts but few have access to the kernels. Overprotection can sometimes inhibit situations to proper development. In the case of the palm, nature has allowed such fertilizing agents as bees, butterflies, ants and other small animals to have access to its inflorescence.

Although young children seem to misbehave a lot, There is need to recognize that they are simply learning how to get their desires met. It is the parents’ responsibility to help them acquire positive values. Children who learn acceptable techniques grow up to become responsible adults who act from a strong moral conscience which revolves around predicting and evaluating the consequences of actions.

In the same vein, children are to be nurtured and protected. In Yoruba communities, nurturing goes beyond the provision of food, it includes character formation. It was the responsibility of the whole community; this gives rise to “Oju meji l’ o n bi’mǫ, Igba oju l’ o nwoo”.

Yoruba tradition stresses that the parents are the first teachers of their children, instructing them in the ‘proper way of relating to their elders and people of the same age group. In the communal atmosphere of the traditional family, parents of children who behave in approved ways are approved as successful; parents whose children misbehave are shamed and advised to put their houses in order.

When parents fortify their children, provision should be made for access by agents that will positively affect the children. Teachers are the qualified and certified agents that can effectively carry this out.

Recalcitrant Children

In the Yoruba traditional system, flogging is an acceptable way of correcting children when they are wrong. However, modern child-upbringing deemphasizes flogging; but generally to the detriment of moral values. Most parents are not sufficiently knowledgeable in the act of child-upbringing. In fact, most leave the children in the care of house-helps yet admonishing teachers, who are learned in psychology, when their wards are disciplined.

The traditional Yoruba adage states “Ile l’a ti n k’ękǫ r’ode” meaning that the origin of knowledge is the family.

I tend to agree with families in de-emphasizing flogging but not complete eradication. I taught in two primary schools over a period of three years and nine months and had occasion to apply the cane only thrice; two boys and one girl in the first instance in the first school and one girl in the second instance. In my second school five of my pupils did not come to school with materials for handcraft. The girl in the second instance was getting uncontrollable because she was the pet of her influential grandmother. The first of the boys was an apprentice Babalawo (Ifa priest).

He was part of a group that refused to carry out an instruction vital to their learning. I was not informed of his status because they never believed I would apply the cane; even if I was aware I might not have relented because I was unaware of that tradition; except if I had been informed much earlier. I was brought up in the city. Unfortunately for him, when I decided to apply the cane on them he boasted that nobody could flog him. While the others got light beatings on their palms he got two hot ones on his buttocks. I had nightmares but nothing untoward happened to me. He lost his apprenticeship because of it. I got aware only eleven years after; when one of his classmates told me the full story. Not because of the beating but for acting irresponsibly to earn a public flogging.

My Headmasters were wary of my rare-flogging method but discovered that my pupils responded more positively to learning and were better cultured that the other arm of the classes. I met my little girl twelve years after and she was appreciative of the fact that what I did made her grandmother to realize that she was being over-pampered; her aunt, who happened to be her mother’s elder sister, harped on it to make the grandmother stop the over-pampering influence on her.


Parents should refrain from accosting teachers when their wards are disciplined. It is a negation of God’s laws and counter-productive on the children. Teachers’ rebukes, reprimands and corrective measures are reinforcements against social and environmental hazards of life. Once these protective measures are removed, the child becomes vulnerable and cares less about authorities, rules and regulations. School administrative rules and regulations have put sufficient checks and balances in place for the protection of children.


Imoisi, O. B; G. E. Ilori; I. Agho; J. O. Ekhator (2015).  Palm oil, its nutritional and health implications (Review).  J. Appl. Sci. Environ. Manage. March, 2015, Vol 19(1) 127-133

Peters, S. C. (2012). Helping a Recalcitrant Child. Accessed 07 Nov 2016. .



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