Values education: Wake up and realise what is slipping through our fingers

Lately I catch the bus quite frequently, slow, tedious, unusual for a muzungu, but very much an eye opener to the various generations and socio-economic dimensions of society. Made more interesting by this time of year, with most schools closed in Rwanda and the secondary youth are in abundance.
Passengers board a taxi. Teenagers are becoming less respectful of elders today. /(File)
Passengers board a taxi. Teenagers are becoming less respectful of elders today. /(File)

Lately I catch the bus quite frequently, slow, tedious, unusual for a muzungu, but very much an eye opener to the various generations and socio-economic dimensions of society. Made more interesting by this time of year, with most schools closed in Rwanda and the secondary youth are in abundance.

My experience of the secondary youth generation is somewhat disappointing. My observations are not limited to just one bus company or one bus route. I have travelled by bus north, much around Kigali city and most recently, even Bujumbura, thus providing equitable observations.

The youth spit, throw their rubbish out the window but what bothers me most is their indignity to the elderly. It is here though I get most annoyed. Females are the first to relinquish their seat for an elderly or frail person. Young, robust, dare I say men not boys, look the other way, or even move to allow a woman to get passed to offer an elderly citizen a seat.

How have values education failed? How has common courtesy and respect failed to exist? What has become the model of behaviour to this generation of 15-25yr olds? Or should the more appropriate question be, who is missing from these young peoples’ lives that informally taught respect and chivalry?

The family unit: parents and grandparents whose family lifestyle command respect is what’s missing. Certain behaviours in life are ‘caught’ not taught. With the absence of grandparents and a set of parents working the long hours expected, or loss of parents, therefore guardians who work, is what has caused the void of society. Was the void necessary?

On the other hand, in many instances the grandparents or parents are not bus commuters, therefore should it be the elderly commuters, which should be more active in expecting their right to request a seat? I did that one evening. I had two heavy shopping bags, getting on an already full bus. I looked around in hope for just one chivalrous young man but alas!! To no avail was my hope and it was okay for some many stops. What didn’t go down well, at a particular stop a passenger alighted next to where I had stood, but faster than I could move, a young man standing, jumped into the vacant seat instead. That was a red rag to a bull. I gathered my two shopping bags and made him reluctantly move, by almost sitting in his lap. Even with that action, I don’t believe the message crossed his mind that by standing, it showed respect. Rather his mind was angry because I made him stand up again.

Thank God, values education is high on the agenda in the new curriculum development being carried out by Rwanda Education Board (REB).Values is not simply about respect for elders, environment, each other, culture, property, knowledge, government. Values are a common bond between societies which date back to the beginning of humanity as we know it.

Times have changed; globalisation has changed us, development has changed us, but none of these should be let take away humanities common core values. We get what we allow. Parents, you get rude, disrespectful children, because you allow it. Grandparents, you get grandchildren who ignore you because you don’t demand their presence, or you allow them to claim ‘they’re too busy’.

Society, wake up and realise what is slipping through our fingers because we’re too busy providing, to be too busy to protect family, society and cultural values and expectations.

The writer is Deputy Principal, Student Welfare, Riviera High School

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