‘The best of both worlds’: Lagos private schools as engaged strategists of transnational child-raising

Ruth Cheung Judge - Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies


Schools in migrant-sending contexts often educate many children whose parents live abroad and decide to ‘leave’ or ‘send’ their children to be raised ‘back home’. Yet there has been little attention to how transnational child-raising is enacted by non-kin actors within educational institutions. This paper addresses this absence, exploring Lagos private schools as crucial sites of care for children with parents in the diaspora. Examining educators’ perspectives on schooling children ‘sent back’ to Nigeria from the UK and USA, the paper argues that they undertake intensive and strategic projects of transnational child-raising. They act as defacto guardians and position their educational offerings as highly moral in ways that draw on endogenous notions of ‘training’ good character, but are not driven by reproducing tradition. Rather, they play intermediary roles in transnational families: they aim to realise parents’ desires for respectful, disciplined children who excel academically, yet are also attuned to young people’s struggles. They are conscious of diaspora realities and understand their schools’ roles as portals facing both ways in the transnational social field, preparing young people for multiple possible futures. The paper demonstrates that exploring education as a site of social reproduction can be richly revealing of the dynamics of transnationalism.