African cultural values will save our children

In one of my recent articles I talked about how the western cultural imperialism has eroded our values in reference to the Eiffel Tower that crowns one of iconic buildings in the city.
 Stephen Mugisha
Stephen Mugisha

In one of my recent articles I talked about how the western cultural imperialism has eroded our values in reference to the Eiffel Tower that crowns one of iconic buildings in the city.

A close look at the current trends especially with the young generation casts a big shadow on the direction we are taking. What is happening to our children and what will happen to their children?

In light of our education system that treats everything African as barbaric and backward, we have become so blind even not to see the obvious. One of the biggest importations from the west that is killing our societies is the word “freedom”. 

Because of this freedom, instilling discipline has become a nightmare, both as parents and teachers as the first guarantors of the children discipline. We are now being told that it’s a crime to spank a child, sure?

Though the bible contradicts this position in the book of proverbs 13:24 it says “whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them”. 

Surely, I am not an advocate of capital punishment, neither am I pushing for child abuse but we need some disciplinary measures if we are to have sanity in our society.

I will use my recent encounter with a French couple to elaborate my experience. My tour of duty took me to Akagera Game Lodge where I was attending a publishers retreat.

After two days of stress the participants decided to go on a tour of the park. On the truck that took us around the national park, we were joined by a French couple with their handsome boys aged nine and six.

What impressed all of us was how obedient and disciplined these young boys were. To begin with, they greeted each of us on the truck; to most of us this was very impressive and unusual.

Such civilised young boys from Paris greeting strangers? You know what I mean if you have visited some homes including relatives and children hardly come to greet you! In mean time, I took keen interest in these young boys who were French speakers and my French hardly goes beyond bonjour!

Anyhow, we connected through the sign language and later on I realised the boys knew a few Kinyarwanda words, the only words they knew were disciplinary-“ndagukubita, itonde, imva” and the harsher one “ndakumena”! 

The further discussions with the couple revealed to me that the mother, who is Rwandan married to a Frenchman, uses her mother tongue to discipline her children otherwise she would be reported to the police.

She told us back home in France if you discipline your own child, it becomes a police case. The children at age of four are given free toll police numbers to report their parents in case they discipline them!

Surely, how do you instill discipline in such a setting? Or how has she managed to discipline her own children? Her secret is the use of her mother tongue as indicated above, but most importantly whenever, she feels her children are getting out of hand the couple plans a trip to Africa.

Ironically, two weeks once in a while in Africa are enough to instill discipline in these two young boys from France but to some of us our children are free to do what they want and later on we lament uncontrollable behaviors with that intergenerational gap phrase “abana bubu”!

 I believe even in the West, the problem is not parents or teachers disciplining children, rather the problem is laxity in enforcing discipline and too much freedom that leads to moral decadency.

In the name of freedom, students carry guns and shoot their fellow students at will, they carry drugs to school because teachers are restricted to search students luggage, minors may go to bars because if you raise any concern your encroaching on someone’s freedom etc.

Surely, is this what we are craving for? The word freedom is killing the young generation. Freedom must be enjoyed within limits. Freedom to associate has led to emergency of gays; too much freedom has led to high levels of indiscipline in schools.

Vices like drug abuse are common than ever before. Immorality has become the order of the day etc.

What is the way forward? We need a cultural renaissance to restore African values and this entails the involvement of every one especially the government.  We must imprint on the minds of our children good African values.

Cultural dynamism does not mean one culture uprooting the other. In Africa a child belongs to the community we should be concerned with our neighbour’s child without the fear of being taken to police.

Teachers should be able discipline students without the fear of being rebuked by the parent. Strict measures of discipline must be administered in schools in consultation with parents such that punishments act as deterrents to indiscipline.

Because of limited punishments schools have resorted to expelling students and this is not a solution to a child’s indiscipline. To the contrary such students keep on spreading their unbecoming behavior from one school to another!

Take an example of a student X, expelled from school Y because of drugs. The parents will take this student in school Z and he will intoxicate students in the new school.

Some people believe free speech may be an excuse for people who lack the ability to think, we should not use freedom as refugee to enhance moral decay and indiscipline in our society.

The writer is an educationist, author and publisher.

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