That our moral and cultural values are getting eroded by foreign ones is no exaggeration. Technology, which has shrunk the world, is in part to blame. For all its benefits to the citizens of the world, technology has to some extent, had a negative impact on our moral and cultural values.
Satellite channels, commercial video halls, now available in many urban areas in Rwanda and the internet, influence the ill and less experienced in our society into believing that the Western culture is superior to ours. Our colonial past makes matters even worse.
In our society today habits injurious to life such as smoking, drug abuse, alcohol drinking, irresponsible and under age sex could rise if serious measures are not taken to check foreign influences.
Recently, a centre for adolescent studies in Kenya showed that a considerable number of twelve year old children are involved in sexual activities. Now, how much information do such children have about reproductive health let a lone being parents?
Perhaps our own researchers will enlighten us on the situation in Rwanda with regard to how much information the teenage children have on reproductive health and related matters.
CNLS has been doing a commendable job in sensitizing the youth, parents, guardians and all Rwandans in general regarding their responsibility on sexual matters.
Imbuto Foundation formerly known as PACFA has also done a great deal in this respect but a lot remains to be done by all of us.
Of course there are lots of good things we should learn from other cultures from near and far, but to swallow the whole, anything ‘trendy’ or ‘modern’ as a mark of civilization is to miss the point. How about learning the value of keeping time for instance?
Traditionally, Rwandans don’t attach much importance to time, though changes in the right direction are now visible. For example, a good number of our business people and shopkeepers no longer close shops to go for lunch and ‘siesta’.
Today they send for a meal from a nearby restaurant, eat a snack or even park something from home for lunch!However, we need many more people arriving on time for work, meetings and other important functions. Time for doing things should be precise so that the rest of the time can be used for other activities.
It is still common to see, in down town Kigali streets –where traffic police are a rare sight , two motorists headed in the opposite directions stopping for a short conversation just because they haven’t ‘met’ for a while and totally ignoring those behind them and their hooting in frustration.
This is an irresponsible behaviour. You may own an expensive car but roads are public utilities and no one has a right over other people’s time. Our society has always been characterized by values such as courage, patriotism, hard work, respect for elders and solidarity.
Our recent unfortunate history must have been a result of our increasingly loosening grip on a number of these values. If the world sees a positive change in this country today, it is simply because as a nation we are increasingly restoring these values that have been neglected and trampled upon for too long. The need to revive and inculcate these values mainly in the youth must be a national responsibility.
Apparently this fact has not been lost on this country’s visionary leadership which has left no stone unturned in efforts to revive our values. The same concern must have been the motivating factor for Civic education work shops or Itorero.
While laziness has often been frowned upon in the Rwandan society, one does not see the youth in sufficient numbers on the monthly communal work day- Umuganda. These are people with lots of mental and physical energy but the problem is their attitude to work.
And yet, the value of work cannot be over emphasized. I think collective effort is necessary to educate the youth on the benefits that accrue from work. It is possible that some of them think menial work is degrading; nothing could be further from the truth.
Work gives one a sense of satisfaction, achievement and dignity- particularly a well done piece of work. Imagine the feeling you get when a few hours of your effort results into clean water, mosquito free environment for your community and better housing for those who are vulnerable.
Further more, work keeps you engaged physically and emotionally and this does not leave you with too much time for useless pass time activities. It is high time we learnt to be self supporting. The saying that God helps those who help themselves has stood the test of time.
A God fearing people, at least according to what we hear from our elders, Rwandans must have had a long and profitable relationship with their God. You often hear them in times of trials and tribulations call upon the God of Rwanda.
Not that they claim monopoly over God; they agree God is for the whole world. He may deal with the problems of the rest of the world during the day, but Rwandans are certain God spends nights in Rwanda. As a nation, a combination of our moral and cultural values will not only give us our identity but also a firm stand.
A people without a culture are like a tree without roots- it cannot stand. But as global citizens, let us also embrace a selection of values that are beneficial to us and for nation building. The fact that some elderly people too cherish western values only reminds me of an African proverb; “that when a bird in a flight gets tired, it lands on any tree”.